Interview with Writer : Instructor Nancy Davidoff Kelton

By Russell Saray

Nancy Davidoff Kelton, my writing instructor at The New School for Social Research and now in her advanced private workshop, insists her students revise their work. And revise some more. If and when it becomes publishable, she urges us to submit it and despite rejections submit some more.

Unsurprisingly, Nancy revises her own work and persists with marketing. For decades, she did so with essays and books and now with her play Everyone’s a Stranger. Along with rejections it won Long Beach (CA) Playhouse’s New Works Festival Competition 2023 where it had a terrific, staged reading April 1, 2023. Spark Theatre in New York at 15 West 28th Street will have a reading November 12 at 7 pm.*(more about getting tickets at the end of the story)

A pretty big deal for a new playwright in her 70s.

Here are questions I asked Nancy:

What inspired you to write a play?

I have been going to the theater since 1956 when my parents first took me to Broadway from Buffalo to see The Diary of Anne Frank. I am a theater buff.

I love writing dialogue. I hear voices. If I weren’t a writer, I’d probably be in a padded cell. I eavesdrop in restaurants, on buses, in parks, everywhere. Although plays are not just dialogue but are about gestures, behavior, and what is not said, it is exciting to love writing it.

What are the themes of Everyone’s a Stranger? 

The main themes are a mother-daughter relationship, the impact of mental illness on a family, forgiveness, and learning to give and receive love.

How did the audience react to your Long Beach Playhouse reading?

With laughter and silence. The audience was touched and amused. The feedback I got after was that the characters and situations were very relatable. People told me I was writing about them.

Yes. I believe we all have a certain degree of mental illness in our families and ourselves.

Can you share more about your revising and persisting?

I am a born reviser. I love tightening my work and fleshing it out. I love seeing how to make it better. Revising thrills me. I welcome constructive criticism. I ultimately let my gut decide what to delete and what to put in.

I majored in persistence. A “no” from one theater does not stop me. I keep at it. Keep sending it out.

In terms of writing, I say what is in my heart and soul first and foremost for myself. There is an urgency. The process excites me.

Talent is a big part of it. But no one gets anywhere without hard work and hanging in.

Tickets for Everyone’s a Stranger November 12 at 7 pm can be purchased at Spark Theatre Emerging Artists Theatre the night of the show. Beginning October 15, they can be bought in advance at a lower price through a link at

–Russell Saray lives in the West Village, has had several pieces published including two in West View News, and is working on a memoir.

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