Monday, November 20, 2006

Suzan-Lori Parks

On the recommendation of Brian, I have read Suzan-Lori Parks' essay "Elements of Style," which is published in The America Plays and Other Works. He was certainly right -- great stuff! I will pass it along to my students.

Some gems:

"As a writer my job is to write good plays; it's also to defend dramatic literature against becoming 'Theatre of Schmaltz.' For while there are several playwrights whose work I love love love, it also seems that in no other form of writing these days is the writing so awful -- so intended to produce some reaction of sorts, to discuss some issue: the play-as-wrapping-paper-version-of-hot-newspaper-headline, trying so hard to be hip; so uninterested in the craft of writing: the simple work of putting one word next to another onstage. Theatre seems mired in the interest of stating some point, or tugging some heartstring, or landing a laugh, or making a splash, or wagging a finger. In no other artform are the intentions so slim! As a playwright I try to do many things: explore the form, ask questions, make a good show, tell a good story, ask more questions, take nothing for granted."

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"theatre
Jesus. Right from the jump, ask yourself: "Why does this thing I'm writing have to be a play?" The words 'why,' 'have' and 'play' are key. If you don't have an answer then get out of town. No joke. The last thing America needs is another lame play."

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"Most playwrights who consider themselves avant-garde spend a lot of time badmouthing the more traditional forms. The naturalism of, say, Lorraine Hansberry is beautiful and should not be dismissed simply because it's naturalism. We should understand that realism, like other movements in other artforms, is a specific response to a certain historical climate. I don't explode the form because I find traditional plays 'boring' -- I don't really. It's just that those structures never could accomodate the figures which take up residence inside me."