Because I came of age in the 60’s, both personal and social impulses lead me to write plays. I’m an activist, but friends and family hold keys to my heart. To live fully in both arenas, I write plays to better understand what urges us to imagine others’ viewpoints and entices us to build relationships with people, sometimes to our own pain. Why do we ever linger in the dark, isolated from intimacy and community, the essential sparks that light our lives?
I create stories from scenes of unfolding conflicts that I have encountered through observation or experience. People fascinate me. Driven by high stakes of clashing needs, they can behave surprisingly, making desperate or hilarious responses to friends and foes alike. I love theatre because it 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. 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 blind in both instances to the consequences. Even in adapting classics, like Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, I discover social conflicts interwoven with personal desires and needs.
For me, a play, like life, exposes our fear of the unknown. As scenes remind us of what we have in common, a play builds our courage, leads us to new awareness, and swells our spirits beyond loneliness.