We’re nearing one of several points in the year in which most playwrights have just completed a bevy of applications in which they’ve been asked to articulate “why theater?” Why devote a life to writing plays for (relatively) meager financial reward? Though the question is oft-repeated, it’s a vital one. One that, precisely because of the lack of financial reward, sparks a multitude of fascinating responses.
After answering the question on application after application for several years now, I feel like I’m finally able to articulate my compelling case for theater. I’m not promising (or even pretending) my thoughts are unique, but they’re mine, and I like them, so I’ve decided to share them here, where individuals beyond those who will screen my various applications can read them.
My Reasons For Writing Plays
1) Theater is the only art form in which artists are necessarily present to witness their audience receive and respond to the work. I love forging connections between performers and audience, and I want to be present to witness these connections myself.
2) I relish the inherent challenge of telling bold, epic stories theatrically. This requires embracing the relative poverty of theater and using my ingenuity and imagination as well as those of my collaborators to theatrically render stories that are impossible to realize realistically. I love the fact that the relative poverty of theater serves as a catalyst for my most imaginative and inventive storytelling, thereby coaxing the audience into using their own imaginations in concert with the actors, director, and designers. It is this collective imagining that forges the connection between audience and artists that is crucial to the realization of any arresting piece of theater.
3) I aspire to bring disparate groups into a single space in order to cultivate community. I’ve come to understand this desire as one that is deeply rooted my own identity as a multi-ethnic artist living between cultures. Growing up between my mother’s Latina culture and my father’s German-American culture, I never felt completely comfortable in either. To this day, I always have this nagging, uneasy feeling that I am an “other,” that I do not belong no matter where I am. In many ways, my aspirations for my art are an attempt to counteract this feeling. I aspire to create an idealistic space in which different communities can encounter each other and see each other with greater empathy. I aspire to cultivate the rare space in which I feel completely comfortable, completely at home.