Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky(Photo: CNN)
Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky
(Photo: CNN)
Monica Lewinsky knows the perils of recorded conversations. In 1997, Linda Tripp began taping discussions with Lewinsky of the latter's affair with President Bill Clinton. Now, four years later, playwright Linda Strausfeld has taken verbatim transcripts of those very tapes and created Snatches, currently playing at the 78th Street Theater Lab. In the show, Monica is played by Jean Taylor and Linda by Patricia Chilsen.

Would Monica agree to another taped phone interview--this time, with TheaterMania--to discuss the new entertainment inspired by her dalliance with Bubba? "I don't believe Monica would like to comment on that play, thank you!" snaps her publicist, Juli Nadler, with amused disdain. Thankfully, the creator of Snatches was more than willing to talk.

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THEATERMANIA: What gave you the idea for Snatches?

LAURA STRAUSFELD: Well, I think I was as fascinated as a lot of us were when reading about the Lewinsky scandal. I read pieces of the transcript in the newspapers, and I remember reading that there were 22 hours of conversation. I couldn't imagine that they could just be talking about Bill for 22 hours! My curiosity got the better of me, so I just had to look online. Because I'm a playwright, I love transcripts--hearing real people speaking real words of conversation. And I thought, when I started reading this, you couldn't write better dialogue. I just couldn't stop reading; it was like a great pulp novel. I read to the end and found there was this incredible plot to these transcripts that I hadn't read in the press. So there's the plot of Snatches: Linda steals Monica's hairstylist. That's the betrayal in the play.

TM: Where online did you gain access to the transcripts?

LS: The CNN website. I mean, there are plenty of places.

TM: Any legal issues?

LS: Not that I know of. But I am a lawyer, so...[laughs]

TM: You describe the play as a "rare view of two women in neurotic embrace." I don't suppose this is a friendly portrayal of the duo?

LS: I think it's a...relatively... compassionate portrayal of two women. I mean, it's theater, so I think it's emotionally real. It has a point of view about their friendship: that it had real intimacy. The play actually revolves around the theme of hair because when the women were talking about hair, they were at their most intimate.

TM: Does the title, Snatches, have several meanings?

LS: [laughs[ Yeah. That's right. Please don't ask me to define all of them on the record!

TM: In what ways do you feel that the play is timely in the post-Clinton era?

LS: Because it's about women of a certain level and about women on the telephone. That sub-phenomenon is interesting to me.

TM: Is the public still hungry for dirt on Monica Lewinsky?

LS: Well, I think so. I started collaborating with some friends and we did a workshop production back in January. People were so into it!

TM: Have you heard from Monica or Linda regarding your play?

LS: I have not.

TM: How do you think they would respond to what you've done?

LS: I have no idea. I think they would like no one to ever read these things again--so they should contact CNN and the other big websites about how to get those transcripts off the Internet. They're still up. You can even listen to the tapes on the Internet; you can actually hear them speaking.

Patricia Chilsen and Jean Taylorin Snatches(Photo: Ming-Ting Lee)
Patricia Chilsen and Jean Taylor
in Snatches
(Photo: Ming-Ting Lee)
TM: You advertise the play as a comedy. Does it go into any of the drama of the Lewinsky-Clinton affair?

LS: It's a comedy, but it has tragic elements to it. The story itself fits neatly into the classic structure of tragedy. These people have become comical in the press, but what happened was tragic. There are parts of the show that are quite sad because there are parts of the transcript that are quite sad. But I think that, because Monica is who she is--she just picks herself up and has become the "It" girl of New York--the play has a relatively happy ending.

TM: Does it cover the aftermath of the affair?

LS: No, every word is taken directly from the transcripts. We use some projections to explain the details of what happened.

TM: Do you expect Ms. Tripp and/or Ms. Lewinsky to attend your production?

LS: There's been some advance press on the show, so it has been crossing my mind, but I don't know what I would do. I have to say that I do have one of Monica's handbags, so I'm supporting her in her new career.

TM: Will Lewinsky handbags be on sale at the concession stand?

LS: [laughs] If her company is interested in that, they can give me a call.

TM: Suppose one or both of the women do show up at Snatches one night. What would you say to them?

LS: Oh God! That's a terrible question! [laughs] Well, I feel that their relationship was a relationship of extremes: They had an extreme level of intimacy about their hair and about other things, and Monica experienced an extreme betrayal. But I think, in a sense, that a lot of us have gone through our own, minor versions of what they went through with each other. And I have a lot of compassion for anyone who has been through a brutal, personal betrayal, so I have a lot of compassion for Monica.