Personal and social impulses lead me to write plays. I want to understand what enables us to imagine others’ viewpoints and entices us to build relationships with them, sometimes to our own pain. I want to find sources of pain that prevent such connections, which are the essential sparks lighting our lives.
I create stories from scenes of unfolding conflicts between people. Rooted in psychological truth, characters’ encounters intensify through their interactions. Driven by high stakes of clashing needs, these familiar people can behave surprisingly, making desperate or hilarious responses to friends and foes. Further, theatre draws a live audience into the play’s world, coaxing them to identify with characters’ dreams and failures. I gasped audibly in unison with strange women around me, when Medea, played by Fiona Shaw, killed her young boys. Her performance of the betrayed queen’s agony transported us to a soulful place far from the Broadway theatre that we entered two hours before. An ancient art form, theatre powerfully expands our knowledge of human experience.
My material comes from observing fellow Southerners. When I see them do something disturbing, funny or a mixture of the two, my creative itch begins, and I scratch out script drafts. Like admired playwrights Tennessee Williams and Beth Henley, I know that our social ceremonies and manners are steeped in religion with a dash of hypocrisy and ignite both comic and tragic conflicts. I’ve created characters torn between seeking heaven and a lover’s pleasure, or between winning a legal case and failing to protect a child, while being willfully blind in both instances to the consequences. For me, a play, like life, exposes our fear of the unknown. It also builds courage, as scenes remind us of what we have in common, lead us to new awareness, and swell our spirits beyond loneliness.