Fia Alvarez finished her first complete play, “Pretty Princess and the Seven Cockatoos,” when she was in the fourth grade at St. Francis of Assisi School on Harford Road in Mayfield.
“It was a satire of ‘Snow White,’” Alvarez says, laughing, as she describes the playground play reading she directed. “I think that my voice has stayed pretty consistent.”
Alvarez graduated from the Julliard School’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program in New York in 2011, and at 31, has built an impressive resume consisting of both stage and television credits, including staff positions on the FXX cable channel series “Man Seeking Woman” and on the first season of Denis Leary’s USA Network comedy “Sirens.” Her play “Friend Art” premiered at New York’s Second Stage Uptown in May, and an earlier work, “Between Us Chickens,” was performed at South Coast Rep and Ensemble Studio Theatre, both in L.A.
“[My actress sister] Amelia was in my first produced play at South Coast Rep,” Alvarez says. “In ‘Between Us Chickens,’ two East Coast girls move to L.A., and one of them gets really into the L.A. lifestyle—and one wants to leave. It’s about how they both experience moving there. I was inspired by the summer my dad moved to L.A. And my brother [Jake] and I lived there with him. It was just so different.”
She’s referring to her father, Baltimore-based writer Rafael Alvarez, a former longtime Baltimore Sun reporter who also earned script credit on “The Wire”—her mother is Baltimore-based author and science writer Deborah Rudacille.
“Both of my siblings write,” Alvarez says. “But I was the one who showed the most interest from the time we were really little. Then I went to high school at Bryn Mawr and wrote and directed a play about Sylvia Plath as my senior project that they produced. I had a great network all around me: Miss Geri Broccolino for music at St. Francis; my theater teacher, Josh Shoemaker, at Bryn Mawr and Gilman. And I worked [concession] at the Charles Theatre my senior year. That had an effect on me, too—so many movies … I feel very much like a Baltimore artist.”
Today, Alvarez and her husband, Adam Squires, a graphic designer—his company CHIPS creates film titles among other things—make their home in Brooklyn, but Alvarez finds herself coast-hopping as needed, and still happily couch-surfs when she does.
How has the petite brunette succeeded so enviably so early? Don’t hate her—she’s earned every break. About a year after grad school, the born writer was as frustrated as can be. She’d been working as a nanny and felt a little bit trapped.
“I told my husband, who was my boy- friend at the time, ‘I have to do something, I need to go to L.A.,’ so I bought a one-way ticket and stayed at my friend’s parents’ house and sold a TV show about being a nanny,” Alvarez says. (Together, ABC and USA purchased the script and paid Alvarez to write the show.)
And though that script, “Brooklyn Nannies,” was never produced, the process served as a dramatic springboard. Melanie Frankel, the producer attached to “Nannies,” soon hired Alvarez on “Sirens.”
It’s hard to resent Alvarez even a little when you speak to her in person—you feel like you’re talking to a stage character fueled by equal parts chutzpah and deep authenticity.
But is she as self-aware as she seems? Does the likeable star playwright/TV scribe know herself—on an existential level—now?
“I mean, certainly more than I did at 21,” she says, laughing. “But if you ask me the same question in 10 years, I’m sure I’d be like, ‘No, I didn’t.’”
That awareness of not knowing no doubt enhances the beauty of her work.
“In grad school, [esteemed playwright] Christopher Durang, one of my professors, told me my writing was a combination of psychology and humor,” Alvarez explains. “That’s probably how I would describe it as well. I’m interested in how people treat one another.”
Just now, Alvarez is drafting a play about female friendships.
“It’s about getting married, having kids and having less room in your life,” she says. “The idea sparked when I was at my friend’s wedding in Nicaragua. Almost everyone from our core college group had married … For so many years, we’ve been playing guessing games about the point of life we’re in now. So what game do we play now?”