Emily Mann

“I’ve always written—since I was a little kid and I could hold a pencil, I was always writing short stories and poems. I was acting at fourteen, and directing at seventeen. When I went off to college, I didn’t think I could ever make a life in the theatre. I didn’t know anyone who did, and then for some odd reason, I decided I would. A professor said to me, ‘You can’t really do that.’ I thought I could do whatever I wanted to do, and being told I couldn’t just made me mad. So off I went, and did it.”

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Photographs by Ken Collins

Interviews by Victor Wishna  - - - - - - >

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A Note from the Authors

Ken Collins has worked as a professional photographer for more than 30 years. His portraits have appeared in the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, New York, Premiere, ARTnews, The (London) Independent on Sunday, Avenue, Orion, and other publications. The subjects of his portraits have ranged from entertainment notables such as actors Samuel L. Jackson and Frances McDormand, comedienne Joan Rivers, and artist Vito Acconci, to business leaders like Donald Trump and Steve Forbes, to literary figures including Gore Vidal and Michael Korda. He has worked on four continents, shooting in places as diverse as London, Paris, and Tokyo.

Ken's work is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, as well as in numerous private collections around the world. He has served as an official photographer for the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as well as the Whitney Museum of American Art and the American Museum of Natural History. In 2001, his photographs were selected as Best of Show at the Parish Museum of Art in Southampton, NY.

Ken is currently represented by the Gitterman Gallery in New York City and serves on the faculties of the International Center for Photography.


Victor Wishna is the managing editor for Quest magazine and has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Miami Herald, the Forward, Avenue, the Kansas City Star, and other major magazines and newspapers. He has interviewed and profiled public figures from statesman Abba Eban to actor Robert DeNiro to celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. His column "Letter from New York" is syndicated nationally in more than a dozen Jewish newspapers and on several websites, and he is also a contributing writer for Stanford Social Innovation Review, a national journal on nonprofit management. He has scripted audio tours for the American Museum of Natural History, the Jewish Museum and other major museums in New York City and elsewhere.

In his writing, Victor has explored topics ranging from architectural trends to the psychology of terrorism. As a reporter, he has covered lobbyists in Washington; starving artists in the Midwest; fine-dining chefs in Hawaii; soccer players in Argentina; antiques dealers in London.

However, he has always maintained a love for theatre, as a writer, an audience member, and even an actor, appearing in more than 30 community and semi-professional productions. As an undergraduate at Stanford University, he studied acting and playwriting with Anna Deavere Smith, in addition to journalism and psychology. In 2006, he will receive his MFA in nonfiction writing from New School University. When not writing for publication or pleasure, Victor is honing his stand-up routine, which he has performed at several clubs in Manhattan as well as on Staten Island TV, and at a family reunion (not his) in Savannah, GA. In 2003, he was awarded third-place in the Funniest Amateur Jewish Comedian competition at Gotham Comedy Club.


Plays tell stories, and photographs tell stories. The words of a play begin on the page and come alive in real time with real people. The relationship created between the people onstage and those in the audience is an intimate one. Photography works the same way, though in the opposite direction—capturing real people in real time, the image on the page creates an intimate experience for the viewer.

I am completely enchanted by the passion, intellect, and grace of the playwrights who welcomed me into their homes. As a photographer, I could not have asked for better subjects. They wear their lives and their choices on their faces. To become a playwright is a leap of faith, and while these artists have achieved so much, they maintain enormous humanity and humility. That's what I wanted to capture, and why I chose to photograph them as people, not as "personalities." I wanted to invite the viewer in, to recreate the sensation of close contact found in the theater, and, as best I could, to tell each person's story.

— Ken Collins

When we began this project a number of years ago, our goal was to create a book that would be, essentially, a portrait of the last sixty years of American theater. However, our work turned out to be much more personal than that. We both love the theater and were already fans of these playwrights. While some of them have literally seen their names in lights, most will never be as famous as the plays and the characters they create—or the actors who inhabit their roles. On the most basic level, we wanted to reveal them, to show their faces, and provoke readers to respond: "Ah, that's who wrote that play."

Since everyone featured in this book is a gifted writer, it would have been easy enough to ask each of them to submit an essay on why they do what they do. However, we decided early on that this project was about intimacy, immediacy, and spoken language, like theater itself. The central goal of In Their Company is to enable readers to feel as if they are listening in on conversations. The passages contained here are honest responses given in an interview setting—ruminations by playwrights on what it means to have chosen this life and this livelihood.

Combining their own words with photographs and presenting them as a collection, we hope to illuminate a close-knit community of people who, most of the time, work alone. As August Wilson explained, "You sit down in the chair, and it's the same chair that Eugene O'Neill sat in, that Tennessee Williams sat in, that Chekhov, Arthur Miller—whoever you want to name—all sat in. It's the same chair. It's the playwright's chair."

For me, it was fascinating to sit with these writers in their living rooms, their writing studios, their favorite cafés—to be alone with them, just as they are alone with their plays before any audience has heard the voices they hear or felt the truth of what those voices say. I met people who were polite, occasionally profound, frequently vulnerable, sometimes funny, and always friendly. My hope is that you will experience the same pleasure I did in their company.

— Victor Wishna

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