Since Anna Deavere Smith put this style of playwriting on the map with her groundbreaking Fires in the Mirror, other writers -- including Eve Ensler, with The Vagina Monologues, and Marc Wolf, with Another American -- have started using verbatim texts onstage. The method is truly collaborative: Much of the writing happens after the interviews are conducted, when the entire theater company gathers for semistaged brainstorming sessions. "The source material is the interviews, but the structure of the play is created by the work that happens onstage," explains Fondakowski. "You're trying to figure out in performance what ordinarily you're trying to figure out [as a writer] in front of the computer."
Though the process is arduous, involving the recording and transcribing of hundreds of interviews, Fondakowski finds the rewards worth the difficulties. "Working with interviews is really fascinating. ... There's so much beauty and poetry in ordinary people and the things that they're saying. Most people have a burning desire to tell something, to reveal some part of themselves." Lucky for Fondakowski -- and for us.