What an enchanted and wild ride this play is to read and envision! Particularly beautiful is that as much as your play is a play of words, language, and communication, it’s also simultaneously about listening, or the tragedy and drama inherent in not being able to listen. Everyone deserves to be listened to.
So, can I begin by asking what or who(m?) inspired this play?
The play is loosely inspired by two people I love. One, a woman who grew up struggling with her limited use of language. The other, a man, who grew up exceptionally talented, and died too young. Perhaps out of my affection for them both, I put the two together, romantically. Bethany, the main character’s story, takes her from not having a voice--literally, to finding her voice--as a playwright. I admit that has more than a little bit to do with me.
The concept of having the audience know in some sense they are watching drama, by having supporting actors switch between multiple roles- as well having characters swim across stage, for example, this clearly conscious choice made me recall our early days in the off-Broadway theater scene during the 80s and 90s, where drama was stuffed into churches and cafes and even elevators. Did you endeavor to make this play a conceptual play about players performing your play?
Yes, there is definitely a play within a play. And it is, in part, a tribute to the early days of my theatre career; though most of my plays still get produced and developed in downscale theatres Off Broadway. I love those characters (real and made-up) who find their authentic home with each other, putting on plays. Of course theatre families, like all families, don’t always live up to their promise. But the joy is in the possibility. In this play, Bethany finds her voice through both: romantic love and theatre–family love.
While the first half of the play is about biological family, and how sometimes we aren’t born into the right family and have to go out and find or create our family, is that what happened to you? As a writer? Did theater become your new family? Am I turning into Barbara Walters??? Trying to make you cry?
I grew up in a small family of three. My mother worked full time, my sister did whatever big sisters liked to do. I took care of myself a lot, and never understood all that focus on family stuff. I was passionate about: friends, school, and being in plays. My first job, at fifteen, was as an unpaid stage manager for a new off-off Broadway play. I did everything, including the lights and sound: which meant I got an electric shock with every cue. Good training for becoming a playwright. Later, theatres like Ensemble Studio Theatre, Naked Angels, the MCC Theatre became my family, and encouraged me to keep writing.
How much of this play is about the artist’s struggle to not fit in, be understood and finally find their voice in creativity?
Yes, I think we all know that struggle to be accepted and acknowledged. Not just artists. In this story, Bethany’s struggle is heightened, since she can’t be understood—at all--for years. Except by Warren. Which, I think, leads to your next question.
Would you term this then as an uncommon love story, where a person’s first love might be primal but the lasting love is what they choose to be?
That’s interesting. Their first love brings two oddball/lonely/glorious kids together. But love of course is tricky, especially when we’re young and unformed. Theirs changes from that mind-body blowing blast of, yes, primal connection and turns, after some brutality, into an acceptance of adult friendship, then tainted by loss.
Did you study language disorders or did you create Bethany’s language with your very well earned artistic license?
I listened. And then I made it up. Part of the perhaps tricky concept is: though Bethany can barely speak for some of the play, she is, simultaneously, its passionate and articulate storyteller; in order to reflect her fully realized voice, at the end.
Photo credit, Bill Strong.