As part of our #NonchalantRoleModels series, we catch up with super-talented play-writer Elisabeth Lewerenz and discuss her new and exciting queer play How We Begin that’s due to showcase at The Vaults this Feb. Read all about what inspired her to write this piece, her coming out story, and more from our interview below.
Interview with Elisabeth Lewerenz
So, tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get into writing?
I’ve loved theatre for as long as I can remember, I did my first nativity play aged four and
just never stopped. When I started uni in Germany, I became part of an English-
language theatre group and started writing short plays for them and my interest in
playwriting just grew from there. I applied to the VAULT New Writers Programme 2019,
got in and started pursuing writing as a career from that point onward.
We need to start by hearing all about How We Begin. What’s it about, and what
inspired you to write this?
How We Begin is about Helen and Diana. They’ve been friends since uni, have settled
into their lives – and then find themselves falling in love with each other. Since Diana has
a boyfriend, the two start dating in secret, which, as you can imagine, doesn’t always go
smoothly. The play isn’t autobiographical, but it is based on a situation from my own life,
so when I started writing How We Begin, it was definitely an attempt to deal with some of
For any of our readers that would like to get into writing for theatre, what advice would
you give to them?
I’d say start with something small rather than a full-length play – what’s a story that
moves you that you can tell within five to ten pages? Then try and get it on stage
somewhere. When in doubt, do it with some friends. Collaboration with others is a vital
part of playwriting and the sooner you can try yourself out in that part of the process, the
What is your coming out story?
My coming out story is pretty similar to Helen’s in How We Begin! I came out as bisexual
in my mid-twenties, when I got together with my first girlfriend. Most of my queer friends
had already had their coming out as teenagers, so I felt pretty late to the party (which is
ridiculous in retrospect, people come out at all stages of life). My friends and family
reacted pretty well to my coming out. My grandpa actually gave me a round of applause
because he was so pleased that I had found a partner. But I was also met with the usual
confusion around bisexuality: Would I go back to dating men eventually? Was I sure I
was not a lesbian? Some people were really eager for me to “pick a side”.
If you could use a magic telephone to call yourself at 15 years old what would you
Relax. You will be so loved. You still have so much to learn about yourself. Embrace joy
and silliness wherever you can.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
There’s a piece of writing advice from Neil Gaiman that I always go back to: “the moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself…That is the moment, you might be starting to get it right.”
What do you think of the Lesbian Scene in London, where do you go out?
I’m based in Germany, so I don’t get to experience the Lesbian Scene in London very
often, sadly. But something I absolutely love is the Lesbian Discussion Group – we got to
read an excerpt from How We Begin at one of their meetings and it was one of my favourite playwriting experiences ever.
Who’s your celebrity crush and why?
So many! I have a tendency to crush on performers that I really admire, so my long list of
crushes currently include Michael Sheen, Hozier, Kate Siegel, Janelle Monáe, Winston
Duke, Harvey Guillen, Emma d’Arcy, and Taron Egerton specifically in the movie Rocketman
and just about the entire cast of Our Flag Means Death.
As a writer, talk us through your typical day.
I’m not a full-time writer, so a typical day usually includes a shift at my office job in the
morning, some freelance work in the afternoon (hopefully with my cat sitting nearby)
and, if I’m lucky, a drag gig in the evening. As stressful as it sometimes is, I really enjoy
balancing my theatre work with other jobs outside the industry. It helps me not to equate
all my self-worth with my work as an artist.
You’re working on this piece with Antonia Georgieva and Elizabeth Benbow, how did
you all meet?
Elizabeth and I met at the VAULT Festival in 2019, at the showcase at the end of the
New Writers Programme. When I started writing How We Begin, I immediately thought of
her and she’s played a crucial part in developing the play. She has the ability to nurture
everyone’s creative impulses that I really admire. I met Antonia through Elizabeth and
since I’m based in Germany, we have yet to meet in person, but I’m so thankful for all
her hard work on the project.
Where and when can people see How We Begin?
How We Begin is on at VAULT Festival between 14th and 19th February!
We wish to reach as many queer people with the show as possible, so we would love to offer you a 25% discount off tickets to HOW WE BEGIN.
Use code: BEGIN25
When in the booking page, scroll down to the bottom before selected a ticket and enter the promo code in the promo code box.
Thanks for chatting to us Elisabeth, we’re looking forward to seeing How We Begin.
Team Nonchalant x
Last Updated on 14th February 2023 by Nonchalant Magazine