This is a fraught time, especially in the United States. This country is tormented not only by a pandemic which divides us from those we love, but also an upcoming election which has revealed the rift that lays in the heart of the nation. As an artist, and especially a writer who writes across genres, I have needed to think not only about whether I am up to writing creatively right now, but if I am, what should I write about, how, and is it appropriate to our times.
I love the theater and have written a bit for the stage, notably the poetry play, Dreams of May. I have produced a substantial list of plays written by others. And I have an idea for a play which I have been fooling around with for a while. But I have decided to put it to one side for now. The themes that I would write about are not the themes that are relevant specifically for the times we are living in and I do believe that playwriting, of all genres, is the one which best reflects back to us our world in all its horror and beauty, and the issues we face. When I add to it the way the pandemic has changed the viability and finances of the theatre world, I feel that, as a dramatist, I need to step aside. There are times to write, and there are times to yield to other voices. I believe this is one of those times.
A few years ago I ran a workshop investigating the relationship between writing for the theater and politics. I found several quotations which resonated with me then, and they resonate now. I thought I’d share them with you.
I. From playwright, Leo Richardson, re writing the ‘Poles Go Home’ episode of the UK continuing drama, Eastenders:
‘Now, more than ever, in a divided world, it is the job of artists, of writers, of TV comedy and drama, not only to entertain us, but to reflect the things happening in our world, on screen. To show us not only what is familiar, but also wildly different. To reflect the lives of people who are underrepresented, so we can understand those who we didn’t before.
If getting a brief glimpse into the mind of a man struggling to find his place in the country he lives in makes you uncomfortable then perhaps you needed to see it.’
II. From playwright Arthur Miller:
‘I think the job of the artist is to remind people of what they have chosen to forget.’