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New Year, New Plays

Playwrights’ Corner
Playwright, Actors, and Director work around a table rehearsing a new play.

As we collectively bid 2016 adieu our focus is on the new horizon, a beginning many of us aim to stand before and own with an entirely different perspective. Curious and eager to collect my fellow artist’s thoughts, I posed the question, “What new play, real or imagined, do you hope to see or write in 2017?” What follows below are answers that sound something like the drums of a revolution. There are calls for change and upheaval written with deep heart, humor, and incisiveness. There is a provoking and earnest desire to get hands dirty remaking the world as only artists know how. Mostly, there is soul. As you read on maybe you too can think of a new play you hope to see or write in this new year, which now lies expansively before us just waiting for our invigorated strokes.

“For 2017 I am writing a convening currently titled, The Degradation of Women According to the Bible or Diana Oh Creates Her Own Religion. I'm writing it because I have a theory that if more women saw themselves as iconography in religion, we would be in a very very different place. The convening (and I call it a convening because it asks the audience to be active citizens in the piece) is the church service I always grew up wanting. The piece doesn't shun religion but carves a space out for me in it because I have seen it long interpreted in a way that oppresses my female experience.” -Diana Oh

“After the election, New Yorkers seemed shocked that many in this country can't imagine a more diverse America, but that shock is misplaced if we haven't realized that diversity on our very own stages. Most plays, even plays that "talk about race," are chosen because they pander to white audiences and are told for or through a white perspective. In 2017, I need to see more brutally honest plays that are by and inclusive of people of color - plays that viscerally shatter our collective myopia.” -Rehana Lew Mirza

“So the bogeyman is real. OK. The thing that I feared/knew was true of our world is, after all, still true. OK. My wishful faith in the current state slid away and in its wake left space without shape. OK. So what now? In the new year, I want a new world. I'm ready to work to help remake it - not fresh - but out of what we have to work with. And I need my friends to help me see what that world looks like, what it could become, and what gets in its way. I need plays that insist on unflinching truth, defend radical love, and start to build a new world from the old's broken pieces. I need to hear all of you clearly and fearlessly. And to keep my boots on.” -Tori Keenan-Zelt

“In 2017 I hope to see more visibility of Queer Muslim bodies on stage. Truth be told, I'd hope to see visibility of lots of different types people on stage sharing a spectrum of stories. 2016 has grabbed me by the collar- so to speak- entreating me make visible the invisible. So my writing goals are to polish and refine Not In This Room (A Queer Muslim Story) and support all of my peers who are writing stories that challenge the status quo.”-Daaimah Mubashshi

“I'm really excited to see Rachel Bonds' Sundown, Yellow Moon at Women's Project/Ars Nova. Not only is she a brilliant, poetic soul, but Rachel just had a baby, as I did, and so I cheer her on heartily as she resumes her bold career as a new mom.” -Anna Ziegler

“I want to see ALL of my plays staged in 2017! Are you kidding? But I would have to say there is one that stands out for me right now. This past summer, my play BEIGE won the 2016 National Latino Playwriting Award sponsored by the Arizona Theater Company. It’s a play I consider to be one of my “endless” works – in other words…I have worked and worked on this piece so much over the years, for so long now, I believe it’s almost become embedded into my body and soul almost as if it’s now a part of my DNA. I think if you were to open me up, you might find lines of dialogue and snatches of monologues written across my organs and deeply sketched into my blood vessels! Yeah…it’s become that intense for me. In addition to winning the 2016 National Latino Playwriting Award, the play was selected this year as a finalist with the 2016 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, as well as a semifinalist with the 2016 Princess Grace Award for emerging artists. But ironically, at this point, it’s literally the only full-length work of mine that’s yet to be staged. Would love to see that status changed in 2017…fingers crossed!”-Desi Moreno-Penson

“I hope to see something honest. Something that a writer had to make and that a theatre had to put on. Fingers crossed!” -Ngozi Anyanwu

“In 2017, I want to write things that question the world around us through a fantastical lens (while still remaining grounded). In terms of what I want to see—Every day I see more and more people mobilizing as activists, and I’m excited to see how we channel our collective anger to the stage over the next year.” -Kristin Slaney

“I do not want to see the play that asks me to empathize. I should be empathizing as a given. I do not want to see a play that asks me to listen to the other side. I should be doing that always. I want to see the play that rips me open so I can see what's inside.  The play will crash in and break light into the basement of me, where those piles of racist, hateful garbage I inherited from the centuries have cluttered. It will sweep out the dusty corners, thrusting forward those bits of misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia I pretend belong only to others. The play will rip out the rotted wood of my pretense of being a good guy, and point at my vulgarity, my selfishness, my pettiness, my ignorance, my laziness, my tweet-typing fingers. The play will show me all of this inside of me, so that I can truly ask if it's so shocking to see them on gold-plated chairs on high. It will not be the play that everyone needs to see. But it will be the play that shows me this trash inside myself so that I can burn it there. The play I want to see in 2017 will show me the walls I have built inside myself, and will require me to tear them down.” -Nick Gandiello

“I plan to write a play about the way communities form and fail and form again. And one too about the biggest field in the world." -Caridad Svich

“I am currently workshopping a devised project which will continue development in 2017 with the aim of creating a new multimedia piece inspired by the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. Our story will incorporate elements of magical realism, race, hate crimes, white supremacy, Stockholm Syndrome, interracial relationships, and overcoming the prejudices we are raised with. Looking forward to making audiences uncomfortable, inspired, and challenged.” -Kimille Howard

"I imagine in 2017 and what comes after, we playwrights will be writing plays that scare the shit out of us, make us laugh with ridiculousness, that are reactionary and tough with love. But also, plays that illuminate the light that gets let in, as Leonard Cohen once said much better than me." -Matthew Paul Olmos