Elizabeth Page ’76

BIOElizabethPageDEGREE: B.S. in chemistry; certificate in film production from The New School
JOB TITLE: Writer and filmmaker
FAVORITE TRINITY MEMORY: I have a lovely memory of a flute concert in the Chapel in the dark at midnight.

REPORTER: How did you fi rst get involved in the entertainment industry?
PAGE: I finished early at Trinity and spent the spring semester at the National Theater Institute at the O’Neill Center in New London. From there, I joined a children’s theater
company and then went to New York and started auditioning. I got a part in a production of Lewis John Carlino’s Snow Angel and started taking classes with Stella Adler and writing plays for my actor friends. I workshopped a play I’d written at the American Place Theatre, and a literary agent approached me after the performance. While I wrote my next play, she started getting me television work. And that’s how I got started.

REPORTER: You’ve written for the stage and television, and now you’re working as a filmmaker. What do you like about each?
PAGE: In all three cases, the work begins in your mind. You’re moved by something and start to think about what it means to you. So work for all three media starts the same way. I remember when opportunities for playwrights began to open up on soaps shooting in New York in the ’80s. They were hiring playwrights because, at the time, the shows were shot on box sets using cameras with very limited range. All of the information was delivered via dialogue. This was made-to-order for playwrights who wrote for proscenium or even black box stages. So the demands on a playwright and early television writers were similar. In the ’90s, there were huge breakthroughs in computers and in cameras. The cameras were smaller and cheaper and lighter; you could move them around. Storytelling became much more visual. While it’s still dominated by dialogue, dramas are starting to look much more like film. So the thinking—the imagining—is different. While I love writing dialogue, I have to say I’ve fallen in love with the camera. You have one point of view in the theater. In film, your eyes travel. And all that camera movement adds meaning. I find it endlessly fascinating.

REPORTER: Has a classmate or professor from Trinity ever made his or her way into one of your characters on stage or on screen? If so, how?
PAGE: In my freshman creative writing seminar, we had to write a short play. I don’t remember what the play was about, but I do remember including one of my classmates in the play. I say including because the character wasn’t based on my classmate … the character was my classmate. Derek Walcott, our teacher, took me aside and very gently suggested that this was a no-no. Mind you my classmate was the heroine of the piece, but his point was that what we observe in life has to be filtered through our imaginations and transformed into something new—it can’t just be Xeroxed onto the page. A very good lesson.

REPORTER: Can you tell us a little bit about your work on the upcoming film 12?
PAGE: 12 was inspired by Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Decalogue—a collection of contemporary parables about the Ten Commandments. 12 takes as its source the 12-step programs and consists of 12 half-hour segments. I’ve written all the segments and have begun shooting some footage to introduce the project. I hope to gather a community around the project, not only to support its production but also to keep anyone involved in recovery or interested in issue dramas informed about its progress. So anyone in our Trinity community interested in these themes is invited to contact me at epagenyc@gmail.com or on Twitter at @epagenyc.

REPORTER: How did your experience at Trinity prepare you for your career?
PAGE: I was a chemistry major, which involved lots of lab time, and was also spending every other waking minute in the theater and dance studios doing plays and taking classes. So the work ethic—that’s really helped. If you want to accomplish anything—especially these days and especially in the arts—you have to work till your eyes bleed. Trinity also had lots of extra curricular activities. That’s how I discovered that I wanted to work in the theater. I’d always written stories and poetry but had never considered the theater because in high school they did musicals, which didn’t interest me. One day in Mather Hall I saw a flyer about a workshop of Sylvia Plath’s “Three Women.” I loved
her poetry, so I tried out and got the part—and I was hooked. Also—and this was critical—as a chemistry major, I had a key to the building and could sneak into the movie theater … Shhhh …

REPORTER: Some of your play Spare Parts takes place in Hartford. What made you want
to include Trinity’s home city?
PAGE: I wrote Spare Parts soon after college, so Hartford and its neighborhoods and bars
and museums and parks were very familiar to me. I’d also spent time at Yale, and some scenes take place on the New Haven Green. I wanted to focus on characters just starting their adult lives, who still had some growing up to do and didn’t quite know who they were yet. Locating the play in a college town helped.

REPORTER: Who at Trinity had a major influence on you?
PAGE: I arrived at Trinity thinking I was going to major in philosophy but quickly segued over to chemistry, which felt like applied philosophy. I studied with Dr. Henry DePhillips. He became my adviser and taught me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned. I’d applied for and received a fellowship to do chemistry research but then was accepted into a summer acting program at Yale. I was really torn. I’d already committed to the research program and brought my dilemma to Dr. DePhillips. He said something that has always stuck with me: you can’t commit to something you’re not committed to. I’ve had many brilliant and inspiring teachers in the years since then, but the lessons I learned from Dr. DePhillips—discipline, clarity, commitment, intellectual rigor—have helped me more in life and the pursuit of my goals than anything else.