Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore on Vulnerability in Writing

by Anca Szilagyi


As we prepare for The Furnace Says Goodnight, Kyle Getz is interviewing Furnace contributors about their past performances. First up is Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore! Please join us at Hollow Earth Radio on Friday, December 2 at 8 pm for a special collaborative performance and party. Without further ado:

KG: Before your reading, you said that you already liked the crowd because “the only terrible audience is the dead audience.” How did the live audience and radio broadcast of The Furnace influence your reading?

MBS: Yes, it was a lively audience, right from the beginning, which is not always the case. I always pause when audiences get particularly loud, to let everything sink in, but other than that it doesn’t change my delivery, I don’t think. But, it changes how I’m feeling—it makes me feel the resonance of my work, it gives me energy, so I’m not the only one producing the momentum. And then, afterwards, I feel enlivened instead of drained, which is how I feel when I read for an audience that doesn’t really respond. Sometimes a quiet audience is responding, and I find out afterwards, and that’s great too, but there’s nothing that beats the immediacy of interaction with a louder, more boisterous crowd.

KG: “The Freezer Door” ended with the idea of taking risks. When you share very personal stories, like you did at The Furnace, does this feel like a risk to you? Does it come naturally for you?

My goal with my writing is to be as vulnerable as possible. This helps me to feel like I can go on living, by telling everything, and not dying right then. That’s the fear, right, when you share something particularly vulnerable, that suddenly you won’t be able to go on living anymore. But for me it’s the opposite.  I need to be vulnerable in order to survive.