Crossing genres

8 Jan

Last year I wrote and published a novel (Cloudless, UWA Publishing).  Writing in another genre pushed me to think about what words do– what they’re for. Playwrights are architects, pitching blueprints to builders… And everything changes once time and space and bodies enter the picture. A play is a tight, time-bound bridge across a shifting river of audience attention.  It’s not done til it’s performed– not really.  A play is a call to action in the most fundamental way. Build me. Walk across me. Dance with me. 


That has its joys

Writing my novel was more like writing a love letter at midnight, setting it on fire, then casting it out the window.  Some solitary insomniac might see it flare in the dark and be comforted– like hearing another prisoner tap on the cell wall next to you   That quiet sound, just for you, says: you are not alone. 

You might be in middle school in Ohio- perhaps the only kid with purple hair for 1000 miles. You might be a lonely middle-aged woman with a frail parent and an angry teenager and a mean boss.  But in that little flicker of light on the page perhaps, in finding my book, you take heart.  Other worlds exist. Someone is out there.







8 Aug

So, women over fifty write great books too… but that aside, here is a fabulous list if you’re looking for something to read.

Cumulative advantage and women playwrights

11 Mar

At The Summit, a public conversation with prominent DC theatres’ artistic directors convened by Washington Post theatre critic Peter Marks, Ryan Rilette tried to explain why it was more difficult for prominent theatres to stage women playwrights than to stage their male peers. Part of his reply–that there were fewer women “in the pipeline” (meaning a production circuit from major London and New York stages) went viral on social media, inspiring some very funny memes like Daniel Alexander Jones’:

Daniel Alexander Jones' meme

Daniel Alexander Jones’ meme


It also inspired Elaine Romero to initiate WE EXIST, an open-source, editable list of female and trans* playwrights to which anyone can add herself or another playwright. (see my previous post.)

But I don’t want to make Rilette the bad guy here; his theater, Roundhouse, is committing to gender parity in future seasons, and is part of a group of 44 DC-based theatres who’ll be premiering women playwrights for the Women’s Voices Festival in DC in 2015.

Instead, I want to tease out what’s useful and important in the problem he named. Continue reading


11 Mar

Women and trans* playwrights are under-represented on our international stages–less than one in four plays produced, on average, is written by a woman despite theatre audiences being majority female. There’s a circularity to this: exposure leads to production, which leads to exposure…

So I’m excited to share WE EXIST, a list of contemporary playwrights (women & trans*) which Elaine Romero, Rachel Jendrzejewski and I have been building. It’s now an open, Google spreadsheet with over 1,000 names to which anyone can add.

This is the direct link:

Here is Elaine Romero’s original post from when she launched it on Monday, March 11 on Facebook:

I invited women playwrights and their fans to post their names on my Facebook wall to count our heads for a Twitter poem. Liz Duffy Adams inscribed hers first. The names kept coming. Christine Evans and Rachel Jendrzejewski dove in with passion and hard work to create an evolving, open-source list in which anyone can add herself. What has emerged is a Declaration of our Interdependence. We practice inclusivity. We celebrate abundance. We celebrate ourselves. We are Female and/or Trans* Playwrights and We Exist.

Please share with your networks! It’s meant to be used, amended, edited, and to serve as an activist, advocacy and research tool. At present it reflects our circles (mostly US and Australian); we hope it will internationalize and diversify as people get involved and add to it.

To add to the list: Simply insert a name where it fits alphabetically (by last name) in the list. OR just add it to the bottom of the list and we’ll periodically update the alphabetization.

The “Speaking as a…” trap.

18 Dec

It’s been a rough week for news. 26 people, 20 of them children, were murdered in a school in Connecticut by a gunman whose profile sounds all too familiar– an isolated young white man. There may actually be action on gun control after this latest horror.

My focus isn’t this terrible event itself, though along with the rest of the country, I’m gutted by it and send love and sympathy to the bereaved. I want instead to comment on a seemingly insignificant aspect of the response and suggest that it taps into something troubling.

Overwhelmingly, comment has centered on how “parents everywhere” are devastated. True, of course. But I am not a parent and I don’t want to see children murdered either. The whole exercise of empathy or compassion, it seems to me, requires the moral and imaginative leap of putting oneself in others’ shoes—shoes of a different size, made of other materials, made for feet unlike my own.

Over and over in the U.S., I hear “Speaking as a single mom” or “As an African-American playwright” or “As a person struggling with X…” The claim to authority comes from lived experience, and that’s reasonable.
But what about UNlived experience? What is art and literature for? I may need to be (say) a Latina to fully grasp how society positions me as such– but is it a requirement of empathy? To imagine life otherwise? Shouldn’t I at least try to do the imperfect work of imagination and empathy? If it’s only parents who can imagine the pain of parents… if it’s only other white women can imagine my tribulations in trying to be staged on equal terms with white male playwrights… in short, if one can only imagine one’s own demographic, that isn’t empathy at all. It’s a form of projected narcissism.

I think there is a connection between the shriveling of arts education in schools and the language of identity politics, when shorn of social complexity and used as short-hand. We need to make a better case for what art and art-making can offer, beyond the twin traps that not-for-profit “mission” thinking often springs–the instrumental and the uplifting. That line of argument says that art is USEFUL because it improves grades, earns $, etc. Or, that there is a moral purpose to art delivered through theme and content (UPLIFTING). Both arguments degrade a core value of art, which is to extend imagination and push us to see (and create) the world differently.

This is the radical potential of art: Things could be otherwise. If you believe that, and you believe that you can approach another’s experience (however imperfectly) then both change, and human connection, are possible because they are conceivable. And hope leads to better places than despair.

Talking about our show at HERE…

17 Jan

Two shows only! Tuesday 24th and Wednesday 25th January at HERE in NY.
Show page is here (for bookings and info):

Art and War in NY

14 Dec

We’ve started rehearsals at HERE for our CultureMart show, You Are Dead. You Are Here. . It’s exciting to see other artistic responses to war in NY right now that also eschew the earnest and journalistic approach that often frames theatre about “real things”.

One is Haroun Farocki’s show at MOMA, Images of War (At A Distance)
and the other is Pure War/ The Madness of the Day at TheaterLab (just til Saturday this week).

Virtual Iraq – YouTube

25 Nov

Skip Rizzo is the creator of Virtual Iraq, the program he’s generously shared with us for use in our multimedia theatre piece, You Are Dead. You Are Here., coming up in CultureMart at HERE, NY. Check out some of the amazing work they’re doing with virtual reality therapy–and meet the visual world we’re working with in our piece. This video shows the program in action.

AlbertSkipRizzo's Channel – YouTube.

Space and performance

22 Nov

In talking with Erik Ehn this morning, I’m reminded again of the centrality of space–and the way we conceive of it–to theatre.

This is Erik, writing on the Soulographie blog: “Conversation comes up again and again around the idea of space… I have just about no understanding of Hegel and Heidegger, but I think I’m more on the side that space is more important a ground of being than time. Our experiments have a handle on duration – we’re steaming ahead there. But the political, economic and architectural spaces of theater, while also finding reform, are begging for a radical break. Our body is breaking down, our meme is weakening to the point where it can no longer include death, and without death (mortality, mourning) we ain’t live, and sure aren’t performance.” Continue reading

Dates for performance

22 Nov

I’m looking forward to the next step in building YOU ARE DEAD. YOU ARE HERE. with my collaborators Joseph Megel and Jared Mezzocchi. We’ll be putting up the first act of the show, with full media, at HERE’s CultureMart in January 24th and 25th, 8:30 p.m.–more on that soon. Here’s our teaser trailer:

New Teaser: You Are Dead. You Are Here. from JaredMezzocchi on Vimeo.

Meanwhile, check out media designer Jared’s work and process in his blog, where he writes about his recent design process on A Child Shall Lead Them: The Night of the Hunter.