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The Subtext: C.A. Johnson’s Trapped Women

The writer of ‘Thirst’ and ‘All the Natalie Portmans’ talks about her Louisiana upbringing, starting out in fan fiction, and why she writes about cornered women.

This month Brian talks to playwright C.A. Johnson, whose play All the Natalie Portmans plays at New York’s MCC Theater Feb. 6-March 15.

C.A. Johnson.

When Johnson was a kid her mother had a stroke, and she was the only one there to help when it happened. That night forced her to become an adult in the moment, and it set her on a mission to write the story, going beat by beat over what happened that night. It became a family hit and set her on her path to becoming a writer.

But it wasn’t playwriting that was her first love. Her family wanted her to become a journalist, but fan fiction is what captured her attention. She began to find an online community for her writing that focused on queer storylines for shows that didn’t already have them. Her favorites became Harry Potter and a Canadian TV show called “South of Nowhere.”

Johnson talks about her upbringing in Metairie, La., outside of New Orleans. In high school she became a Hurricane Katrina refugee, which put her on the road from Metairie to Washington, D.C., to live with a family member and attend a performing arts high school. It was there that the right teacher at the right time nudged her into focusing on theatre.

Since then her work has tended to focus on trapped women, often those who have built their own traps. In addition to All the Natalie Portmans, a coming-of-age play, she’s also the author of Thirst, now playing through Feb. 15 at Strawdog Theatre in Chicago.

Download the episode here.

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