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Playwrights' Week 2016: An Illumination of Themes

Lark News

Playwrights’ Week is coming! We’ve been waiting for it in earnest, for this annual week-long program of public readings. This year is a celebration of its 23rd iteration. The work will be presented this October and will feature six plays which are all beautifully and thoughtfully crafted. Each play has something individual to say regarding the difficult reach toward connection in the face of trauma, the unbearable weight of guilt and regret, and ultimately, the tentative but hopeful steps toward forgiveness and rebirth.  

In The Blameless, by Nick Gandiello a grieving family hosts the father of their son’s murderer in the hope of getting closure, but the journey to reconciliation takes an unexpected turn. Is forgiveness possible in the wake of unfathomable tragedy? Pilgrims, by Claire Kiechel focuses in on a soldier and young girl quarantined together on a spaceship voyaging to colonize a new planet. Sexual tension, personal traumas, and the threat of survival force these two strangers to confront their demons in the face of an uncertain future. Can they escape their past in the new world? Can anyone ever really outrun their past? Against the Hillside, by Sylvia Khoury follows an American drone pilot assigned to spy on a Pakistani family in the midst of war. Suffering from psychological trauma, the pilot finds himself obsessively drawn to the housewife he’s dropping bombs around. As the body count rises, how do we identify good from evil and what the real cost of war is?at the very bottom of a body of water by Benjamin Benne centers on a shut-in mother haunted by guilt surrounding her daughter’s tragic death. Her unwillingness to release the past leads her on a surreal journey where dreams are whispered into the ears of chickens, fish are a source of inspiration and the ghosts of her past are consulted at the bottom of the ocean. In a world where anything is possible, forgiveness and rebirth are attainable, but only if she lets go. The Found Dog Ribbon Dance by Dominic Finocchiaro tells the story of a professional cuddler seeking the owner of a lost dog, her encounter with a socially awkward barista at a coffee shop, and their unsteady journey to love. What happens when a person who gives affection for a living habitually pushes away the possibility of deep connection due to devastating loss? In Europa, by Sarah Saltwick two women meet on a park bench while their children are at play, and a new friendship quickly blossoms. A chilling discovery revolving around a man they both know threatens their budding friendship and old wounds are dragged out into the open. Will they survive this dark revelation, and how will their children living in its shadow move forward?

In each play there lives the underlying need for connection, a complex relationship with guilt, and the looming question of forgiveness. How each character moves forward is dependent on how they respond to their past.  In some cases there is a fierce desire to maintain life as it stands (at the very bottom of a body of water & The Found Dog Ribbon Dance) and in others change is seen as the only option for survival (Pilgrims, The Blameless, and Europa). When these characters meet each other, they know that nothing can ever be the same again. Questions that had previously been blissfully ignored must now be addressed. The attempt toward finding answers is the only way life can be reconstructed and imagined anew. In this way they are able to hope again, love again, begin again. 

An excerpt of this article appeared in The Lark's October 2016 newsletter. To get more stories like this straight to your inbox, sign up for The Lark's mailing list now!