MEMBER PROFILES: Annabel Oakes & Robert Schenkkan



MEMBER PROFILE: Annabel Oakes

When and why did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
I became a member of PEN Center USA in 2015 because I wanted to support the literary community in Los Angeles. I work in television and film now, but I came to love storytelling through writing and reading fiction and poetry.

What is most meaningful to you about PEN Center USA?
I love that PEN Center USA is committed to bringing diverse voices into the literary world and to fighting censorship.

PEN Centers share a Freedom To Write mission, which means we believe that people should be able to read and write freely. What does Freedom To Write mean to you?
Freedom to write means allowing writers and readers to be fearless. It means the freedom to explore every corner, no matter how dark, of territories as large and political as our societies and as small and personal as our own minds.

Writers are using their digital media platforms to engage with readers and other writers on serious topics. Can you give an example of a writer or organization that is doing this well?
I love the Lenny Letter e-mail newsletter created by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner. Lena Dunham gets a lot of flack for, well, everything, but I think Lenny Letter is doing something incredible for women, particularly young women, by talking about important issues like politics, gender inequality, rape, and race in an accessible way.

What is the one book you wish you had written and why?
I can’t say I really wish I’d written anyone else’s book but Birds of America by Lorrie Moore comes close. Her characters are refreshingly ambivalent, funny, and real. Also, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. And Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. And Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. And Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. And The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. I guess I lied. There are a lot of books I wish I could steal and say I’d written. Hide your books, everyone.

What is your favorite quote?
“Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it. I can take it in small doses, but as a lifestyle I found it too confining.”—Jane Wagner, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

Who would be your ideal literary dinner guest (living or dead)?
As far as living writers go, I’d love to meet Margaret Atwood. But if given the choice of all writers ever, I’d love to have dinner with the Brontë sisters and watch them have an argument about anything. It’d be great if Mark Twain could be there too, sitting next to me and making dry asides.

What are you working on now?
I just finished directing my first film, All Exchanges Final, which tells the story of a new mother who is given a magical opportunity to save her dying sister by trading in the soul of her infant daughter.

Annabel Oakes is a screenwriter and television writer. Her feature film script, Lovestruck, a female buddy film skewering romantic comedies, was featured on the 2009 Black List. Since then, she has developed television series with ABC, NBC, and USA, and feature films with Disney. She has been on the writing staffs of Awkward (MTV), Sirens (USA), and Angel from Hell (CBS). She recently directed her first film, All Exchanges Final.




MEMBER PROFILE: Robert Schenkkan

When and why did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
Can’t even remember but probably over thirty years ago!

What is most meaningful to you about PEN Center USA?
Its support for writers worldwide, especially those who face censorship and/or persecution.

PEN Centers share a Freedom To Write mission, which means we believe that people should be able to read and write freely. What does Freedom To Write mean to you?
It’s my life and the life-blood of any healthy functioning society.

Writers are using their digital media platforms to engage with readers and other writers on serious topics. Can you give an example of a writer or organization that is doing this well?
I think Neil Gaiman does a good job of this.

What is the one book you wish you had written and why?
Hamlet by William Shakespeare. It’s an exquisite play in its combination of complicated character and extraordinary language, and remains both philosophically challenging and profoundly moving.

What is your favorite quote?
“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”— Gustave Flaubert

Who would be your ideal literary dinner guest (living or dead)?
William Shakespeare.

What are you working on now?
I am writing a screenplay about the Manhattan Project for Robert Redford to direct, a new play about Erik Jan Hanusen for the Denver Theater Center, and a new adaption of The Trojan Women for the New York Public Theater. My screenplay adaption of All The Way for HBO airs May 21st, and my feature film, Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson, will be released November 4th.

Robert Schenkkan is a Pulitzer Prize, Tony, and WGA Award winner, and a two-time Emmy nominated writer. He is the author of thirteen plays: All the Way, The Great Society, By the Waters of Babylon, Handler, A Single Shard, Devil and Daniel Webster, Lewis and Clark Reach the Euphrates, Final Passages, The Marriage of Miss Hollywood and King Neptune, Heaven on Earth, Tachinoki, The Dream Thief, and The Kentucky Cycle (Pulitzer prize, Tony and Drama Desk nominations). The 2014 Broadway production of All The Way swept the Awards season winning the Drama Desk, Outer Critics, Drama League, and TONY@ Award, as well as the Steinberg/American Theater Critics Award, the inaugural Edward M. Kennedy Award, and Boston’s Elliot Norton Award. It also set two box office records on Broadway. He adapted it as a film for HBO, with Steven Spielberg producing. There are plans to bring the stage sequel, The Great Society, to NYC in fall 2017.

He co-wrote
The Quiet American and Hacksaw Ridge. His television credits include: The Pacific (HBO miniseries—WGA Award, two Emmy and Humanitas Award nominations), The Andromeda Strain, Crazy Horse, and Spartacus. Currently, Robert is writing a movie about the Manhattan Project for Robert Redford, adapting the Dave Robicheaux novels as a series for television, and his newest children’s play, Shadowplay, will be part of the “New Visions, New Voices” series this summer. He has play commissions for the Denver Theater Center, The NY Public Theater, and the Geffen Theater. Robert is a member of the Sand Box Collective, Seattle7, Fellows of the American Theater, National Theater Conference, EST, the DGA (National Council Member), and is a New Dramatists Alumnus.

robertschenkkan.com


Check out our past Member Profiles here.