I have been working all year to write The Vault, commissioned by Flat Earth Theatre in collaboration with the Museum of Science Boston, exploring the intersection of climate change justice and theatre: The Greenhouse Playlab: a Climate Change Theatre Incubator.
I’m writing a play inspired by Climate Change commissioned by Flat Earth Theatre and the Boston Museum of Science – they have collaborated to create the Greenhouse Playlab, which is developing four new plays that focus on issues of climate change by MJ Halberstadt, Kevin Mullins, Francisca Da Silveira, and myself. The plays these guys are writing are so fresh, funny, devastating, and smart – and each tackle the vast issue of climate change in different ways. And we get to work with the best dramaturgs and directors as well, it’s been such a treat. Shout out to my director Josh Glenn-Kayden and dramaturg Phaedra Scott!
The play I’m developing is called The Vault, which is inspired by the science of seed diversity, the Global Seed Bank, the Vavilov seed bank scientists who died of starvation to protect the seeds during the Nazi occupation of Leningrad, and predictions that climate change will eventually cause widespread food insecurity and war. In the near future, in the northernmost town in the world, a lost tourist and a local baker find themselves inside a cave in a mountain of ice in the middle of the night. The world outside is at war, ravaged by climate change, and they are each bent on saving it in their own way. Nothing and no one is what they seem in this icy fever-dream….I’m still writing it so we’ll see where it goes! If you want to find out, check out the free readings at the Museum of Science on May 4, 2018.
The big news right now is that I have been commissioned by SpeakEasy Stage Company to write a new play called Born Naked for the inaugural Boston Project, with a workshop and staged reading in February 2016. I am so honored and excited to be working with them, and to be developing this play with their support. So far the play is proving to be a scary, funny, ambitious new endeavor that is feeling really great to sink my teeth into – researching and scribbling, planning and questioning… and as the world outside is slowly getting colder and darker I am inside writing writing writing. Happy fall!
Watch the archive of the livestream of the Boston #1MPF HERE. This year there were over 100 plays!
I am beginning to be obsessed with writing prompts. That is, the act of coming up with an idea for a prompt that can be used to begin writing a new character, scene, or play. A prompt can be as simple as “an empty chair.” An inviting, intriguing, open-ended …something… left hanging, with lots of room for the playwright to fill in the rest. A prop, image, smell, sound, gesture. Or it can be complex: “Write a play which begins with a busy signal, a caterpillar, several watermelons and a noose, has jazzercise and hard boiled eggs thrown against a brick wall in the middle, and ends with a marshmallow suspended in space with the smell of sulfur and an unspooling red ribbon on a dismembered finger.” Ooo. I like that one. Although, it reminds me a bit of the Clubbed Thumb biennial commission. (See What Do These Have In Common? for the elements that were offered in the most recent call for proposals under the theme of “The Matriarch”.) Their wishlist last summer contained so many disparate elements, it seemed to detract from the idea of a playwright as a singular visionary who could come up with plenty of their own reasons to write. Granted, there are problems with the idea that theatre in both process and product should be beholden to the singular vision of the playwright and her script, but should a commissioning process that asks for a singular vision in the end ask for so many required components at the beginning? But, you ask, if I’m so against the constraints of specific suggestions, why am I obsessed with writing prompts? Because writers need rules and a place to start, whether they invent them themselves, or someone else hands these things to them. And because the Clubbed Thumb model seems to work for many writers – it worked so well this year they have given the commission to not one but two lucky playwrights who came up with exciting project ideas. But I digress.
I think the best prompts are somewhere in the middle of open ended and specific. I am becoming particularly prone to prompts that reference another play or playwright. These are difficult to write, because I immediately want to name what makes a playwright unique and wonderful. But saying “Write a play as devastatingly intricate, powerful and consequential as Lynn Nottage’s Ruined,” or even “Write a play about the atrocities of a civil war in Africa like Lynn Nottage’s Ruined,” is to make the task vague, and entirely too lofty and impossible. You must break things down into their component parts. Which I like very much indeed, sir. It is often easier to break down the elements of shorter, simpler plays. But I suspect as I continue to write prompts based on the plays I read, I shall become superheroine-like at prompt writing. Not only is the word “prompt” deliciously difficult to pronounce, but it pairs well with wearing chunky glasses and drinking fruity tea. Which I intend to do a lot of this winter, thank you very much.
Grub Street is offering daily writing prompts for every day in 2012. Check it out at http://grubdaily.org/