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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

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.

Play size and shape

24 Jul

I was reminded, in conversation with director Dominic D’Andrea recently, that my most recent full length play started life as a one-minute play. (Dominic runs the one-minute play festival that’s gone viral nationally). Sometimes you don’t know the size of something til it emerges–as the mothers among us can ruefully attest! Anyway, I wrote several one-minute plays at Dominic’s request, thinking something like “Humph. How can a real play actually be only a minute long?” and to my surprise, discovered that it can–as a raindrop refracts an entire world in the surface tension that forms its curve.

Of the three plays I wrote, Continue reading Out of Time & Place: An Anthology of Plays by Members of the Women’s Project Playwrights Lab, Volume 1 (9780578060163): Alexis Clements, Christine Evans: Books

12 May Out of Time & Place: An Anthology of Plays by Members of the Women’s Project Playwrights Lab, Volume 1 (9780578060163): Alexis Clements, Christine Evans: Books.

In The Archive and The Repertoire, Diana Taylor makes the excellent point that what’s archived (as distinct from in rep or on stage) remains in historical memory and accessible to wider audiences across space and time.  This is one of the reasons we decided to anthologize the work of the 2008-2010 Women’s Project Playwrights’ Lab. 

A shout-out to my amazing co-editor (and book producer) Alexis Clements for getting these lovely books out into the world, and to all the writers for their plays.  If you’re teaching contemporary plays and looking for more robust representation of women playwrights, these two anthologies are a good starting point.

From Erik Ehn’s Soulographie project

3 May

Erik Ehn is a playwright with a long-term commitment to peace and justice. He is writing a play cycle on genocide through the lens of American history (Soulographie). He regularly visits Rwanda with students and others, contributing to the development of peace and justice through art-making and the work of bearing witness.

This is from his Soulographie project’s website, and is the most cogent response I’ve yet read to the recent death of Bin Laden.

You Are Dead

18 Apr

Just got back from a wonderful time in Chapel Hill with director Joseph Megel and media designer Jared Mezzocchi, working with local actors and crew on a two week workshop of You Are Dead. You Are. Here.

It’s a play I’m writing, working collaboratively with Joseph and Jared in the room, that takes as inspiration and starting point the use of video game and V.R. technologies in military training and rehab. Skip Rizzo, designer of Virtual Iraq, generously gave us access to the software which we’re using in the performance. It began life as part of the Collaborations in Humanities and Technology (CHAT) Festival at UNC last year, and Joseph, Jared and I decided to continue work on the (then) 15 minute piece to develop it into a full-length work for eventual production and touring.

Jared did amazing work with this previously unknown software and live and pre-recorded video to create an immersive world ranging from the V.R. therapy room to the cyber-space from which a young girl blogs from Fallujah. The two worlds–the veteran and his therapist, and the young Iraqi girl’s–are joined through the etheric membrane of cyberspace, where the material shock of war trauma resonates, replays and eventually connects in the present.

After the workshop and audience response, I think I can say: this one has legs. We were thrilled to have veterans in the audience and to hear their encouragement, and were heartened by the wide range of people who responded strongly to the work.

Looking forward to developing it at HERE arts center in NY, where we have a 3 year residency as the Virtual Performance Factory. Photos etc. to come!

Homes and Home Brew for Playwrights

9 Jan

Just came across this post from Gus Schulenberg of Flux Theatre. Gus also works for the TCG so has a good sense of both the ground and the top floor of the theater scene nationally. There is definitely a groundswell around re-thinking the relationship of playwright to theatre. It’s worth reading all of Gus’ post, but in brief: he’s proposing this:

“The Homing Project is a creative stimulus package that imagines a critical mass of the 4,000+ producing theatre organizations each producing 3 plays from a unique playwright over 3-5 years time.” Gus goes on to suggest a matchmaking/ mapping that can make the links between artists and producers. I think this is a great idea!

Theatres seem to love culinary metaphor in their promotions (tasters, menu, smorgasbord, etc.). I wonder if the culinary parallel here (with Gus’ suggestion of matching playwrights to theatre) might be the Slow Food movement, or its cousin the Local Foods movement? The regional theatre’s been heading towards a kind of theatrical….let’s say Panera or The Olive Garden rather than MacDonalds. You know: you can get a nice reliable pasta fagioli and generic crusty bread. A nice reliable WIT or DIRTY BLOND or RABBIT HOLE or A CHRISTMAS CAROL. But it all tastes pretty much the same, and the only local thing about it is the parking.

Slow Food or Local Food theatre might be ratty sometimes; might be surprising and unusual. There might not even be pasta. But we’d have the pleasure of knowing it grew in the back garden, and wasn’t trucked in by our industrial betters. We could even see it being made and have a beer with the writer at the local brewhouse as she tore chunks of her hair out over that pesky second act. Continue reading

The Image in Question: War- Media- Art

16 Oct

If you’re in Cambridge, MA in the next few weeks and have an interest in how video games and other contemporary representational modes are interfacing with the production of modern war, the exhibition at the Carpenter Center for Visual Art is a must. Its banner question is: “How can wars of the present and the experience of war be adequately represented?”
Participants: Peggy Ahwesh, Kota Ezawa, Harun Farocki, William E. Jones, Lamia Joreige, and Wael Shawky. Moderator: Antje Ehmann

My own work (as playwright and scholar) has revolved around this question for some years now, and I’m excited to see visual artists deal with the use of animation and video-game technology in the training and rehabilitation of soldiers. I’m currently working with collaborators Joseph Megel and Jared Mezzocchi on The Underpass, a multi-media performance work on this very subject, though from a different and fictionalized perspective.

It seems to me that the absence or erasure of bodies from the technology of warfare is a development whose consequences bear urgent consideration. It leaves a psychic and physical residue that requires accounting. Video game versions of warfare are realistic to a fault–and that “fault” or fault-line is the question of consequence. Actual death, injury and aftermath do not visit the player–and yet accumulate apace, here or elsewhere, as a consequence of actual war, whether pursued by virtual means (drone strikes, robot soldiers) or embodied ones (fighting in the trenches).

The opening of THE IMAGE IN QUESTION is on Thursday October 21st at 6 pm; see above link for details of other events and more information on the exhibition.

Interview with Lydia Diamond

7 Oct

Here’s a webcast of an event I moderated last Spring, featuring the fabulous playwright Lydia Diamond. It took place while her play Stick Fly was running at the Huntington in Boston. (Hint: she’s the glamorous one). It features Lydia reading from some of her plays, and an extended Q & A with the audience. The event was co-hosted by the Du Bois Institute and the English Department at Harvard.