By Akin Salawu, member of 2008 Emerging Writers Group
Another sobering 2 hour depiction of yet another crime against humanity allows us all to shake our heads and feel superior as lights fade on actor friends whose Law & Order under 5s were grossly overlooked by the Emmys.
20something guy and 20something girl banter over how they are not right for each other and then lights go down on 3 hours of masturbatory but witty repartee covering the confusion of love and being an adult.
Lights fade on 3 hours of a spooge covered one-person-show that never bothered to be about anything other than that one actor on stage.
We’ve all seen and read these new plays many times and I’ve certainly written variations of these old standards. Haven’t you? While we are all technically proficient craftsmen (& women), most new plays I’ve come across in the past few years are quite underwhelming.
We gripe about the lack of new plays being produced, but I wonder if we are not aspiring to create work that is so piercing that it warrants a theater taking a chance on. If we are honest, our generation of emerging playwrights is fairly underwhelming.
Are we just aspiring to be commercial?
Are we aspiring to be socially acceptable?
Are we aspiring to be digestible?
Are we aspiring to be accessible?
Am I just projecting?
Is it really enough to just be saying something in a world being raped by chaos? Artists have got to be doing something; or at the very least trying to do something.
When you tell someone a joke you have 2 objectives:
1. You want them to be affected in some way.
2. You want your contribution to the dialogue to somehow alter the dialogue.
While there are certainly plays that do aspire to have an impact & are part of some dialogue, a lot of plays fall into that “it’s good because I made it” category.
Am I the only one feeling as though most new plays are page after page of grand scale cold busting. (In Central New Jersey - and I think most everywhere else – cold busting someone is calling them out on their shit or putting them down.)
It’s like we’re all on the playground at recess applauding the kid with the best witty cold busting comebacks. Could it be that we are simply following the wave that has newscasters and reality TV stars vying to be the best cold buster? If we are part of this wave, it is that much more urgent that we theater artists break away from the tide and offer up some vision.
Where would the world be if instead of saying, “I have a dream”, Martin Luther King had said, “I’ve some witty repartee”?
Albert Camus has this gorgeous quote:
“When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him. In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
What if we aspired to awaken that light on the faces surrounding us?
One Public Theater EWG reading quite succinctly awakened a light in me. It was a story that showed each of us in the audience something about ourselves. It lit that inner candle every human being prays never goes out.
And that’s why we go to the theater. We go to the theater because we sense there is something more to us. And we sense that artists will help us stroke that itty bitty flame.
Imagine if that was what set this generation of “emerging writers” apart from the pack? They were Bat-Shit-Crazy Cold Busting Champions of Witty Repartee, but…
…they were also the ones.
The ones who flicked the switch.
The ones who opened the window.
The ones who stroked the flame.
The ones who awakened that light…
Akin Salawu revised his EWG play I Stand Corrected in Rising Circle Theater's InkTank Playlabs. Akin is currently working on a new stageplay about sex trafficking in New Jersey and a screenplay loosely based on the experiences of this brilliant & revolutionary doctor up at Harvard. Akin publicly endorses 5AM bike rides, Sabon bath salts, & honest mistakes.
This post is part of a weekly series from the Emerging Writers Group community of playwrights. The EWG is two-year playwriting fellowship at The Public Theater seeking to target playwrights at the earliest stages of their careers. In so doing, The Public hopes to create an artistic home for a diverse and exceptionally talented group of up-and-coming playwrights.