The Writing University conducts interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the various writing programs on campus. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home. Today we are speaking with Christopher Lysik, an MFA candidate at the Playwrights Workshop. Christopher Lysik is a playwright & musician from Rhode Island. He has developed or presented work with Fresh Ground Pepper, Powerhouse Theater, Williamstown Theatre Festival, KCACTF, and Rhode Island Youth Theatre, among others, and is a 2024 recipient of the Marcus Bach Fellowship at the University of Iowa. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and an even prouder cancer survivor. Find him at www.christopherlysik.com
1. Can you tell us a little bit about what brought you to the University of Iowa?
For most of my life, I thought I was going to be an actor. Being onstage was pretty much all I thought about… until I went to an acting conservatory for undergrad and realized I actually couldn’t stand it! As I began to turn towards writing, though, everything clicked. I knew I wanted to go to grad school to refine my skills, and started noticing that so many of the playwrights whose work I was drawn to came through the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. They’re all so varied, yet each so singular in voice… and they all write incredible characters. Iowa playwrights can write character!
2. What is the inspiration for your work right now?
The past year or so I’ve been obsessed with the life stories of my grandparents. I almost always write about “memory” in some sense, but I’ve been really deep diving into their lives, and the cultural backgrounds that shaped them (and by extension, me). Recently, I had a workshop production of Pierogi Play at the University, a one-person show which intersects my grandfather’s unwilligness to talk about his childhood growing up as the son of Polish immigrants in France during WWII, with my own memory issues stemming from a brain surgery I had as a kid… all while I cook the audience a dinner of pierogi, of course! Coming up in New Play Festival, I’ll have a reading of a play based loosely around my grandmother’s life, tracking five generations of an Italian-American family in a single home, as they slowly assimilate into American culture.
3. Do you have a daily writing routine?
Yeah, it’s called procrastinating! I’m not going to lie, I really dislike the process of sitting down and writing a script. When I am able to actually force myself to write, it’s almost always something that’s been kicking around in my head for a long time… and even then, I need to be completely alone, so I can get up and walk around, make weird noises, strum my guitar— anything but put words on a page!
4. What are you reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?
Right now, most of my reading has been for classes. I am slowly making my way through a couple books of Polish folk tales. My plan is to adapt one of them for the stage, though I’m not sure which yet…Something I could intersperse with either Southern Gothic music or 80’s British Punk!
5. Tell us about where you are from - what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?
I’m a New England boy, through and through. I was born and raised in North Kingstown, RI, and split my time between the woods of western Rhode Island and the waves of Narragansett Bay to the south. I come from a tight-knit family, where we always put plenty of emphasis on tradition— values that often show up in my work— and spent my childhood surrounded by music (my dad plays keyboards in a classic rock/Top-40’s cover band!).
I have dreams of returning to my New England home. Eventually, my partner and I plan to move back and start a playwrights residency center somewhere in the middle of the woods, that focuses on allowing artists the time and space needed to recharge, without the demands of constant creation. Plus farm animals. Lots of farm animals.
Thank you so much!