Alexis Roblan: The DLG-Proust-Actors Studio Questionnaire

by Joseph McKeown


Alexis was born and raised in Coos Bay, a small town on the very rainy coast of Oregon. With her childhood home in the “tsunami zone,” she grew up constantly worried about the long overdue earthquake set to strike in the Pacific Northwest. “I spent my entire childhood waiting for it everyday,” she says.  

She got into theater in high school as a performer and studied acting at the University of Southern California, where she was happy to escape the nearly constant coastal Oregon rain. She had dreams to be both an actor and a playwright but she never got over her horrible stage fright. “No matter how much I performed," she says, "I would just sit backstage the entire play when I wasn’t onstage reading my lines because I was so scared of forgetting things.”  

She began writing plays her senior year of college, and received positive feedback. One of her professors, the head of the USC graduate program, encouraged her to apply to the master’s degree program in dramatic writing. Her parents are “ridiculously supportive” of her chosen life as a playwright. “My thesis play from grad school was a really aggressive feminist play,” she says. “Very risqué. An anti-burlesque burlesque. At the talkback afterwards my dad raised his hand and talked about how much he loved it. It’s not the kind of play that you would expect your father to like. My mother loved it too.”

She moved to New York to pursue a career in playwriting, and though she’d rarely left the West Coast growing up, she’s enjoyed the city so far. “I like being surrounded by people all the time. LA is very isolating.” Perhaps inspired by all the runners in the office (okay, her dad and brother were runners as well), she recently ran a half-marathon in New Hampshire. It was conveniently sponsored by her favorite brewery, Smuttynose, and after the race she got beers, clam chowder, and a lobster roll. She’s considering running a marathon.  “I can’t decide,” she says. “It seems a little terrifying. I’ll probably throw my name into the lottery for the New York marathon. If I get it, I’ll make myself train.”

She joined the firm as a Legal Writer in 2014. “It’s actually in all honesty the first day job I’ve ever had that I like. It’s really nice to do something that requires my brain and the skills that I value.”

My last question: “Do you think an immigration law firm would make a good setting for a play?”

“Most of my short plays take place in work environments,” Alexis says. “They are really great spaces for the amount of drama that’s allowed in a short format. There’s a pressure to not let things explode. And they’re great settings for people who wouldn’t otherwise interact with each other.”

Questions taken from and/or inspired by the Proust/Inside the Actors Studio/Bernard Pivot/AnOther Magazine questionnaires

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

What turns you off?

What sound or noise do you love?
The Russian language.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Theoretical physicist. I think I could still make it if there was a way to transfer all the necessary high-level math knowledge / ability into my brain instantly as a little head start.

What is your idea of happiness?
Exciting, passionate conversations about big, hard-to-tackle ideas with people who are interested in reaching beyond their own limits instead of arguing for pre-determined points of view.

Where would you like to live?
The Mojave Desert.

Who are your favorite prose authors?  
Salmon Rushdie, to answer the actual question. But let’s throw some playwrights in here and add Lisa Kron, John Guare, Sarah Kane, Anne Washburn, and Jean Genet.

Who are your favorite heroes in fiction?         
Mulder and Scully from The X-Files. I like characters who fight against odds that really are unbeatable, and stories about how to keep on striving for something worthwhile even when success is actually impossible.

What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?
Some sort of serious athleticism. I’d like to know what it feels like to be an Olympic gymnast.

What makes you laugh?
Genuine surprise.

What makes you cry?
Movies. Even bad ones.

What do you consider to be the greatest invention?

What is the biggest risk youʼve ever taken?
I moved to New York in the middle of the financial crisis (and the middle of winter) with no job, only two friends in the city, and having never experienced seasons before.

What is a book or movie that has changed your perspective on life?
Demian by Herman Hesse, when I was about fifteen. Once again, I’m going to sneak a play in here and add In the Wake by Lisa Kron, which I saw at The Public Theater the year after I moved to New York.