Speakeasy with ‘Albatross’ playwright Lee Nowell

Playwright Lee Nowell discusses how Woody Allen helped inspired her new play, as well as the thrill and terror of a world premiere at Actor’s Express.


  • Courtesy of Lee Nowell
  • ALBATROSS NOT PICTURED: Playwright Lee Nowell

“It’s like high school. They’re too cool for me. They’ll never go out with me,” is how playwright Lee Nowell describes her feelings about whether Actor’s Express would ever produce her work. Instead, real life imitates the ending of Sixteen Candles when Actor’s Express stages the world premiere of Nowell’s two-actor drama Albatross, opening Sunday, Oct. 24. Originally from East Tennessee, Nowell has worked as an actress and director in Atlanta theater in the 1990s and 2000s, and co-written several plays with her husband, playwright/novelist Phillip DePoy, but Albatross marks her debut as a solo playwright.

Were you excited when you found out Actor’s Express was going to stage the play?
I’ve known for Freddie Ashley for 17 years, but we haven’t really spoken in 10. We talked on the phone and he asked me to send him my scripts. Later, he called one night when Phillip was making dinner, and told me, “I want to produce Albatross.” And I was like, “Okay, great,” but meanwhile my foot’s going thumpthumpthump. We finished the conversation and hung up, and I started squealing and jumping around the kitchen like I’m five years old.

What is the play about?
Our sound designer described it as “a really jacked-up love story.” It’s some dark shit. It’s about two people who have been married for 10 years. They go to the funeral of an acquaintance, and when they get home that night, all these revelations come out. They keep pushing each other and drinking more, and go to a breaking point, and have to pull back from a brink. It takes place in real time, including the intermission. It reads like a night at home with a couple, except on this night, pyrotechnics and weirdness come out.