( 1965- )
Olnek, who was raised in Connecticut, made her stage debut as Toto in The Wizard of Oz at the age of nine. She received a BFA in drama from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts where she studied at the Stella Adler studio. Olnek was part of a group of students who, as protégés of David Mamet, formed the Practical Aesthetics Workshop, which became the Atlantic Theatre Company. During this time she coauthored A Practical Handbook for the Actor, published by Vintage, with other students of Mamet's and W. H. Macy's. In her final year at NYU's Experimental Theater Wing, she decided that she wanted to pursue playwriting as a career. Olnek was introduced to the WOW Cafe and began working with the Bad Neighbors Theater Company; she returned to WOW where she knew she could work in a supportive environment and "write without consequences." Most of her plays have been performed at WOW.
While maintaining a New York base, Olnek attended Brown University on a fellowship to their MFA Creative Writing Program and received her degree in the spring of 1996.
Olnek's plays carry the irreverent spirit of the iconoclastic theatre venues in which they were bred and produced. The comedic, satiric tone, however, comes within a postmodern, absurdist style and sensibility that creates ever-shifting worlds, attached to the familiar but on the verge of becoming unanchored. Olnek says that the ludicrousness of popular culture "feeds into an examination of the absurd in society" ( Eigo, 7) that is compelling, particularly as a lesbian excluded, in a sense, from that culture. In the one-act Co-Dependent Lesbian SpaceAlien Seeks Same