I read in the New York Times this week that there’s a new book out which asks some big name playwrights (A. R. Gurney, Christopher Durang, Sarah Ruhl, John Patrick Shanley), ‘What play changed your life.’ What play lead to inspiration and change? Oooooh and there’s an interactive feature over at the Times too where you can actually hear some of the playwrights talk about said play and its influence.
So, what play changed my life? Hmm.
I’m not sure, I don’t think it was a ‘play’ but theatre itself. I had a lot of tiny introductions to theatre when I was young. I remember seeing the dancers outside the stage door after a production of The Nutcracker and being intensely interested in that side of the stage. I remember seeing Annie and being wowed by the moving side walk they used for the NYC number. I remember seeing a play at school, and the actors had pretty clothes and then they went behind the curtain and almost instantly came out in ratty clothes. That was awesome. I remember being eight years old and being allowed to sit backstage during a Christmas pantomine to watch the action from the wings.
That might have done it. The moment that determined I was going to have theatre in my life. There was something so defining in connecting what was happening on stage to what was happening off.I remember being part of a team, being welcomed. I remember wanting to be part of that world.
But, let’s get down to brass tacks, the question is, ‘What play changed your life?’ Ok, ok. Top Girls By Caryl Churchill. I love that characters who shouldn’t be together were in the same room. And the second act took a left turn away from the first. And the second act wasn’t in order. And that a character actually got up to pee during the dinner. The play is character vivid and character cohesive and the land these characters live in is often so out of wack. I hadn’t even had an inkling yet that I wanted to be a writer, but I knew if I was, I wanted to write characters like that.
Another play that has affected me more recently, is Sarah Kane’s Blasted. It is Blasted in every sense of the word. That is not a milquetoast play. It is not PG 13. I read it and bemoaned that I would never write like that. And then I thanked my lucky stars I would never write like that. I’ll never be that writer and I’m ok about it. And that’s not a bad discovery to make.
So, what play changed your life?