Donate Now

the playwright's playlist: music is magic

Playwrights’ Corner
Christopher Oscar Pena

music is magic.  one note can conjure your first heartbreak.  one verse rips you back in time to a place you thought no longer existed.  one lyric can bring back the dead.  

music is history.  it is cultural memory.  it is the way we remember.  music is stories we pass down from generation to generation.  music is how we keep a movement alive.  

how many people hear simple minds’ dont you forget about me and think of the first time they ever saw the breakfast club.  ducky and ally sheedy and the words “…what we did was wrong, but we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are.  you see us as you want to see us.  in the simplest terms.  the most convenient definitions...”  every time i hear a michael jackson song i think about san francisco and my mom.  i think about how i was walking down the street and suddenly, began to notice that  MJ was coming from that window and then that woman’s stereo on the stoop, and that kid’s iPhone walking by me.  i remember my mother calling me and saying michael died!  i walked by an ice cream shop that had changed all the names of the flavors to mj songs, and by the time i arrived to dolores park everyone was singing and dancing to his music.  you know that when a sad song plays or prince’s purple rain comes on, someone’s going to want to get it on.  when i hear any no doubt song i think of my junior high friends.  i think of what an awkward kid i was.  i remember being newly out and feeling like the only boy in the world who would never fall in love.  john mayer’s no such thing triggers college.  it triggers the feelings of hope and opportunity.  i think of isla vista and my san nicolas dorms and driving to the santa barbara bowl.  every time i hear madonna now, i think of cory and cleo and iggie and caroline and orsini and pitter and kamine and dancing.  

music is the band aid on a bruise and the bruise itself and the skin and the blood and the scar.  we all have them, and one song triggers the world.

for this playlist, i chose songs that i used while writing, but most importantly, songs that make appearances in plays of mine.  in one play, we hear a song we thought was an original, and then realize it’s a cover we grew up loving.  lauryn hill’s can’t take my eyes off of you.  you probably don’t have a heart if you don’t love whitney houston.  i used her beautiful hit i have nothing in a karaoke scene belted out by the fierce bonnie milligan.  the audience loved hearing her hit the notes, singing along with her, and were enraged when the moment was purposefully cut off from them in a blackout at the height of the song.  many gay boys had their first kiss to a joy division song, so i wanted to put that on stage, capturing a moment so painful, hilarious, life changing to so many of us.

music is a magic trick.

The Playwright's Playlist

  1. Can't Take My Eyes Off of You - Lauryn Hill
  2. Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division
  3. Punching in a Dream - The Naked and Famous
  4. That's the Way Love Goes - Janet Jackson
  5. Tyrant Destroyed - Twin Shadow
  6. Islands - The xx
  7. Parallel Lines - Junior Boys
  8. All Eyes on You - St Lucia
  9. Swimming in the Flood - Passion Pit
  10. I Have Nothing - Whitney Houston
  11. Dreams - Fleetwood Mac
  12. Tightrope - WALK THE MOON
  13. Simple Kind of Life - No Doubt
  14. A Little Respect - Erasure
  15. True Faith - New Order