The trend of multiple actors portraying one character moves from stage to screen with new streaming series Tuesday Nights. Its six episodes explore 24 hours in the life of one woman on the day she signs her divorce papers. Each episode is written by a playwright, and features five different actors in the lead role: Tony nominee Daphne Rubin-Vega, Tony nominee Michelle Wilson, Julia Joyce-Barry, Rachel Lu, and Shiva Kalaiselvan. All six episodes were directed by Joe Bandelli.
"From the beginning, it was incredibly important to us that Tuesday Nights portrayed a New York City that felt real. We wanted the series and the characters it portrayed to be inclusive, diverse and above all, honest," creator Shiva Kalaiselvan said in a statement. "Thanks to our incredible writers—who just happen to be some of the best playwrights working today—and our extraordinary cast and director, I believe we've done just that."
Below, the five playwrights responsible for the six episodes break down what their chapter is about, and how they approached the singular project.
Written By: Celine Song (Endlings)
Brief Synopsis: We meet the Woman.
Approach to Writing the Episode: Shiva, who is a friend of mine from grad school, asked me to be a part of this project. I followed the outline Shiva and Jolene gave me to write the episode. So in this situation, I was really a writer for hire. But that was thrilling in a way, because in my own work, I was writing something very personal and difficult at the time. It was a lot of fun getting out of my own head and delivering on someone else's idea.
Written By: Leah Nanako Winkler (Kentucky, God Said This)
Brief Synopsis: The Woman meets up with her worried father to make sure he can still watch her kid later that night while she goes on her first date after her divorce. To calm her father's nerves she assures him she's OK and that for the first time in her life she can do whatever the fuck she wants. Slice of life with a simple flashback asserting The Woman's strength.
Approach to Writing the Episode: I took Shiva's lead. I think she has a strong vision and tried to bring in my own experiences on moments when I've felt alone but felt bold and OK living in that loneliness. Usually in a writers room we all collectively beat out the arc of the season together, so this was unique in that each episode was self-contained and assignment based. I'm really excited to see what the other writers did with their prompts!
Written By: Jeremy Tiang (State of Emergency: A Novel)
Brief Synopsis: As she tries to cope with the fact of her divorce, the Woman prepares to go on a date whilst calling on a friend for help—only to find out that friends can let you down too.
Approach to Writing the Episode: Shiva was very clear about the overall arc of the series, and how each of our segments would fit within it, so that made it easy for me to have a sense of what my episode needed to do. As the main character was being played by a different actor in each episode, there was no need to worry about continuity, which was very freeing. My episode was mostly in Chinese, and it was an interesting exercise for me to consider what it meant for the story that my version of the Woman was an immigrant from another language and cultural background. What she goes through may have emotional resonances with her other incarnations, but there were things that would be specific to my episode—for instance, her increased isolation through having less of a support network in this country.
Written By: Harrison Rivers (The Bandaged Place, 2018 Relentless Award Winner)
Brief Synopsis: A woman, who is preparing for a date, is visited by her ex-husband, who wants her back.
Approach to Writing the Episode: I was definitely intrigued by the premise of this particular mini-series, by the idea that several different writers would be contributing to one character's, one woman's, story. It was both a highly individual and deeply collaborative experience simultaneously. A rare, and definitely exciting, challenge.
EPISODES 5 & 6
Written By: Laura Zlatos (Happily After Ever)
Brief Synopsis: The Woman goes on her first first date in eight years. It is a little awkward, a little mysterious, and very surprising. The next morning, the Woman gets ready for a new day as she reflects on the night before. She wonders if she did the right thing and if she should do it again.
Approach to Writing the Episode: The individuality of each writer's voice and every actress's performance is one of the series' greatest assets. Although I knew about the main events occurring in each episode preceding mine, I chose not to read the other writers' scripts in advance so that they wouldn't consciously or unconsciously influence my writing in the final two episodes. When I later heard all of the scripts aloud, the styles and voices varied, but there were some beautiful moments of continuity across the series that wouldn't have been as successful if they weren't organic. Shiva had a strong vision for the series, so she and Jolene [Noelle, dramaturg and script supervisor] were able to craft a story that simultaneously evoked the ordinary and the extraordinary, the unique and the universal.