Q&A: Paige Quinlivan on Bender, friendship, and LGBTQ+ representation
Long after the one-act showcase at The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival ended for Region V, festival-goers couldn’t stop talking about John Hughes Wrote My Diary, a romantic comedy about two best friends: Marty and Tommy. Marty has ain intense, Hollywood-esque crush on the most popular guy in school: Chet. Tommy has a crush on Claire, also popular. The two decide to befriend each other’s crushes and then pull a switch at an upcoming school dance, but in the process, Marty falls for Claire and Tommy falls for Chet.
I sat down with playwright Paige Quinlivan, who took home first place honors for the show, to discuss how her rom-com came to be and where she wants the genre to go next.
What inspired you to write John Hughes Wrote My Diary?
I started writing it as part of our bi-annual “play in a day” that our student theatre organization does in 2017. I wrote the original 15-page script in about three hours at like, midnight. Obviously, it’s changed since then. It was actually inspired by a music video (to the song “What’s It Gonna Be?”) by the artist Shura, who is a lesbian. And it’s basically the plot where [the two main characters] both have a crush on the most popular kid in school, and then they flip. I saw that, and I was like, “That would make a great play.”
Marty is such a dynamic character. She starts out crushing on the unattainable popular boy, and winds up falling for a girl. What did you want to accomplish with her?
Marty is very much autobiographical. I didn’t want to directly insert myself in the story, but I took the more self-deprecating, angsty, “I’m too cool to be friends with anyone” part of myself, and I just wanted to give her a shoutout. I honestly was thinking of my 13- and 14-year-old self when I was writing Marty.
I had these obsessions with men that seemed sort of separate like celebrities or fictional characters because, I think, when you’re still figuring out you’re a lesbian, and for me particularly, I have always struggled with compulsory heterosexuality. I was obsessed with The Breakfast Club, and I was particularly in love with Judd Nelson’s character, Bender. Which, looking back, is a little, um… *cringes* I was obsessed to the point where I made myself sick, it was so bad. So, I’d pick men, and Judd Nelson was a big one. So, Marty’s high concept fantasies about Chet, and placing them in these specific situations, was meant to suggest that she doesn’t want the real thing.
I was very touched that, in a show about romance, you really focused on the friendship between Tommy and Marty. Why was that important to you?
When I was expanding the play, Bailey– who played Marty and has been my best friend since I was in the first grade– and I were sort of re-negotiating our friendship. She was in a new relationship, I had just gotten out of a very tough relationship. So as I was writing the play, Tommy and Marty’s relationship was sort of my love letter to Bailey, as an apology and also to commemorate how far we’ve come and grown together.
Also, I love the idea that gay people flock to each other without even realizing it. Bailey and I became friends before we knew we were gay, and we’re both very gay.
The audience for the one-act readings at KCACTF reacted very strongly to your show. What do you think it was that they latched onto so strongly?
Honestly, I’m still a little baffled [by the audience reaction]. I was so in shock the entire time because I knew people would think it was cute, but I didn’t know that [whoops and hollers] would be the reaction. I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around it, and I think part of it was the fact that it was a bait-and-switch. You went in thinking “oh, this is going to be straight!” And then there are these moments when you think, “Hold on, this is going to be gay?!”
I really wanted to be vulnerable with this play, particularly with the character of Marty, and put my most embarrassing experiences in there. I think that embarrassment, shame and also the joy you find in finding someone who’s like you, it’s so personal, and I think that because it was personal, it touched that in other people. It’s still crazy to me that such a specific experience can be so universal.
We’re seeing more, if not much, LGBTQ+ representation in entertainment with movies like Love, Simon. What do you want to see for LGBTQ+ representation in the romantic comedy genre?
For me, particularly as a writer, I want to tell stories that are inherently about being gay, but also more than that. I think that’s really important. And I love Love, Simon, but it feels like a romantic comedy second, and a story about identity first. I do think that has its place, but I’d also like to see LGBTQ+ cinema and plays expand into heightened genre fictions.
For example, I’d love to see a film noir that’s just, like, about lesbians. And I don’t think it has to ignore the fact that these characters are queer, because I’m not a fan of the mindset of “oh, it’s just a story about people!” No, it’s a story about queer people. But I also think it’s good to place [queer characters] in situations where they’re not just queer, they’re queer and X, Y, Z. Multifaceted.
Theatre doesn’t just need more love stories, it needs fresh ones
I watch romantic comedies because I know what’s going to happen. Harry and Sally will admit their love on New Year’s Eve. Cher will realize that Josh has been the one for her all along. Jane will finally get to wear her 28th dress. Sam Baker’s birthday wish will come true.
I have watched over half a dozen shows in the span of a single week, and no single show has really latched itself onto my mind… except for one. It was a staged reading of an hour-long one-act. The show began with one girl: a teenage girl lost in 80s-inspired fantasies and struggling with the inherent angst that is high school.
John Hughes Wrote My Diary, a genre-subverting love letter of a play to 1980s romance, did something I never thought would happen.
It surprised me.
And I loved it.
John Hughes Wrote My Diary tells the story of Marty, a teenage girl who is lost in her own fantasies inspired by the movies of late director John Hughes. She pines after Chet, a handsome hunk of a jock, and her only friend is Ducky-esque Tommy, who pines after a popular girl in Marty’s class named Claire. Tired of being lonely (and each other’s only confidants), the two friends hatch a scheme. Tommy will befriend Chet, and Marty will befriend Claire. Then, at an upcoming school dance, they will switch, and relish their happily ever afters. Things get a little complicated– and wonderful– when Marty develops feelings for Claire and Tommy falls for Chet.
The atmosphere in the Belbas Theatre during John Hughes Wrote My Diary was electric. I don’t remember the last time I was in an audience as elated as the crowd was during this show. They latched onto Marty and Tommy immediately. Suddenly, the love stories of these two teenagers was the only thing in the world that mattered. What was it about this play, I wondered, that elicited such an intense reaction from the crowd? From me?
Romantic comedies are just starting to catch up to the diversity of the real world.Theatre has been even slower on the uptake. Lo and behold, there is a market for love stories starring LGBTQ+ people and people of color! Who would have guessed?
It’s easy to forget how important representation in entertainment is when you’ve always seen yourself get a happy ending. I, and many other girls like me, never saw myself get the guy or girl. My rom-com obsession led to a lot of insecurity as I grew up. I couldn’t see myself as a romantic heroine or imagine myself as the kind of girl anyone could fall in love with. The girls who got the happy endings where white. Skinny. Straight.
Marty is a dreamer, a romantic. She’s awkward and angsty and unaware and so, so relatable. And goodness, she is just magnificently gay. So, so gay.
I could feel everyone practically jumping for joy when they realized Marty and Tommy would be gay. That moment, where every queer person in the room could finally relate to the leads of a romance, was pure magic.
Was I surprised that Marty and Tommy would wind up gay? To be honest, no. I met the playwright Paige Quinlivan before I saw the one-acts and she described her show to me as “two gay love stories.”
What got to me was how much it would hit me to experience an audience feel seen by a genre that, for so long, has only been for a select few.
Here’s my theory: everyone has a romantic in them. No matter how pessimistic we are, we crave those happy endings. Love, after all, is one of the most intense forms of human connection. When we see ourselves in love stories, we can picture that kind of happiness in our own lives.
John Hughes Wrote My Diary is a cookie-cutter romantic comedy. It isn’t just an identity piece; it allows its characters to be multifaceted. It embraces the genre of romance while subverting it at the same time.
Give me more of that. Show me romance. Show me plays and musicals that don’t force their gay characters into boxes. Show me playwrights willing to tell stories of people of color (you’ll find many of them at KCACTF).
Romantic plays and musicals aren’t boring or tired; they just need fresh heroes.
They are out there. We just need to look for them.
Sioux Falls. January 24, 2019. Jessica Johnson is a graduate student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha studying to be a college professor in performance. She is also a hardworking mother of two. This is her experience
The caterpillar and the cocoon that institutionalized it.
“Do you know what to do if you ever get stopped by the police?”
I was five years old when my father sat me down to have “the talk.” It was the day following the incident which resulted in my uncle being dragged from the sidewalk in front of our house in handcuffs after the police knocked him unconscious. I stood, petrified, behind my mother’s leg. I remember not understanding why the police were something black children are taught to fear rather than to trust--but in that moment, I know.
In retrospect, I didn’t understand how being black could label me as “guilty” without trial. While my uncle had been rightfully resisting against the officer’s use of excessive force, members in our community still observed this situation, disregarding my uncle as the boy they’d known for decades, and said,
“Well if he had just followed orders, he might still be conscious.”
This scenario and other like it spark a conversation that all black parents have with their children--they try to prepare us for growing up black in America, but in the end they cannot save us from the prejudice that permeates every facet of our lives. The desired result of these constant reminders is the implant of voice in the back of our minds always urging us to be afraid, to be cautious, and to never step a centimeter out of line.
Lest we forget what happens when we do.
Passion Play, an original work by University of Missouri (MU) student Zahria Moore, capitalizes on the struggle that dominates our community--black women grow in and around the fear settled in our stomach every time our sons, fathers, brothers, and husbands venture into the world because we are born with a target that is stuck to our skin.
Following the story of Mamie, Martha, and Mary, three mothers all with teenage sons named Jonothan who died by under barrel of a gun, grapple with each other over whose son is buried in a recently upturned grave.
While enthralled by this concept, It was jarring to find myself so completely in awe of this innovative word smith and her ability to capture the raw and complex emotions one feels when losing a child, specifically to a tragedy as volatile as gun violence. Moore’s work is well written and conscientious of the times for which it was created. She is a beacon for self-aware artists in contemporary black theatre.
Contradictory, this verbally luscious work is overshadowed by the actors’ inability to slow the pace and allow for silence where silence is due. I found myself leaning forward at several instances, immersed in the give and take of what was being said on stage--only to be yanked out of it when the dialogue became lost.
Passion Play’s lack of passion from the mothers who had just lost their sons three days ago, and the awkward tumble of words tripping over themselves as an actress succumbs to her nerves rather than the situation unfolding on stage, twisted this beautiful story into the Mildly-interested Play.
However, the text itself still brings forth issues that the Black Community tries to hide from the light--suicide, gang violence, and police brutality, while prevalent in mainstream media, take a back burner to the loom of the mother’s competitiveness over whose son died the worst death. These sensitive issues serve as a vehicle for three women who live completely separate lifestyles in three obviously distinct socio-economic groups to relate, even on the shakiest of platforms, to what every black American faces regardless of class.
As it is intricately put in the show; “It don’t matter where we come from or how much money we got--we still niggas.”
What sticks out to me the most about this piece is how it manages to be about both Black masculinity and the box it is placed in, as well as the hurt that black women must work tirelessly to hide from an unforgiving world. This hurt shows weakness, and we cannot afford to be weak.
When looking at Passion Play from a modern cultural lense, one can begin to see the cocoon that surrounds the caterpillar a la Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Both pieces provide commentary on how black men are butterflies, but that society will turn them into criminals and rapists, and that this mindset permeates even into our own communities where women like, in this specific instance, Mamie and Martha will argue over whose son deserved to die.
We place a cocoon around the caterpillar who is instinctively jealous of the butterfly, unaware of his own biological capabilities. The butterfly represents the black man who has broken free of the cocoon and has become who he was meant to be. Every argument against his happiness and freedom then becomes obsolete. Who deserved to die?
The answer is neither.
Passion Project: The Creation of Step Forwardd
Love in the face of hate. The University of Central Missouri’s dance concert Step Forward does more than discuss topical social conflicts through the lens of this unifying message. Underneath emotional tableaus and patriotic messages lies a meticulous production process. According to key members of the creative team including directors Ashley Miller-Scully and Julie Rae Mollenkamp and student choreographers Ashton Bennett and Christina Foster, the show went through countless revisions before reaching an anthemic final product.
What inspired you to create a devised dance piece about social issues?
“At the time when we were deciding our next theme for the dance concert, it was right after the 2016 presidential election, and there was a lot of upheaval and division in the country. I then saw this meme on social media, and I thought ‘these are great issues that we can present through the arts in a way that might reach a lot of people and bring everyone together.”
- Ashley Miller-Scully
How much research did you complete when developing the show?
“Once I knew what pieces I would choreograph, I used research we received from partnering with UCM’s Social Influences class. At that point, I connected their dramaturgy with my own research to form the storyline of my choreography. Specifically regarding ‘Climate Change is Happening’, I spent a week compiling information about how humans hurt the earth directly and indirectly. Throughout the choreographic journey, I kept learning new facts to keep the dance relevant.” - Ashton Bennett, student choreographer
What was the most difficult part of the devising process?
“One of the hardest parts was that there were so many different directions we could have gone with the show. You never know when to stop. There were so many possibilities and ideas flowing from the group at once. This means it was difficult for us to decide on the most important societal lessons for each dance in order for the whole concert to be cohesive. The process was a true lesson in how to think together as an ensemble.” - Christina Foster
The theme of Festival 51 encourages Theatre artists to Inspire the Global Community. How does “Step Forward” support this message?
“The combination of dance, singing, spoken word, and images connect our humanitarianism with our patriotism and promotes the notion of radical empathy. UCM is working to create artist citizens who believe the world is made better through artistic practice. Theatre is one of the greatest tools we can use to connect communities, open doors, and help people grow into their best selves.” - Dr. Julie Rae Mollenkamp
Why do you ‘Step Forward’?
I step forward because I am a woman in America who needs to stand up for those do not have the courage to stand for themselves. - Ashton Bennett
I step forward in hopes to make the world a better place and for the next generation because they have voices that deserve to be heard. - Ashley Miller-Scully
A Powerful yet Passionless Passion Play
Mourning for the dead can cast a burden on the soul, but after witnessing Zahria Moore’s Passion Play presented by the University of Missouri, I send my condolences to its audience. While the dialogue rises to heavenly heights, the production digs its own grave with quiet and dimensionless performances suggestive of a middle school one-act, not an invited production.
Lights up on three distraught mothers walking to a disturbed grave. Each claims their teenage African-American son rests below the surface as a result of police brutality or mental illness. Within 45 minutes, tensions flare until the team unites around the desire for justice to be served.
Passion Play explores the instinctive urge of mothers to stand for their personal motives rather than for each other. The Black Lives Matter movement sparked conversation about the treatment of African Americans. Trayvon Martin’s death unearthed the hashtag that started a revolution. Behind these prejudicial circumstances rise the matriarchs who keep their children’s memories alive by stimulating the protest fire.
Playwright Zahria Moore crafts a layered play surrounding themes of social injustice faced by the African-American community. Composed of quick-witted dialogue and gripping monologues, Moore’s text balances colloquial language with sophisticated grace reminiscent of a Langston Hughes poem. Specifically, Mamie’s monologue contains emotional grit as she describes her son’s bullet wounds.
Even if its ending leaves questions about Jonathan’s whereabouts, the story is multilayered with rich exposition. A solid script, its concrete text cracks at the helm of Director Cat Gleason. The allegro pace and staging feel forced and contradictory to the rich text. This explains why her direction undercooks and under-seasons this five-star steak of a play.
As Mamie, Dajah Garrett breathes life into the narrative. Her fiery confidence is as authentic as a Real Housewife. Garrett’s protective instinct sours the situation and adds salt to Gleason’s flavorless cooking.
Meanwhile, De’Janna Scales-Hand and Rachael Robinson produce false emotion as Martha and Mary. Their robotic dialogue barely extends past the lip of the stage. In particular, Scales-Hand delivers mumbled accusations with the inflection of a virtual assistant.
The design elements add a quasi-real feeling to the world, but Jonathan’s grave looks lonely as the only one onstage. Lighting designer Babs Randazzo enhances this atmosphere with a gentle midnight blue afterglow over Cat Gleason’s ordinary cemetery set.
The minimalistic design contains an iron fence curving from a dirty red brick wall with an elevated grave at its center. A rounded rectangular dirt latrine surrounded by a turf hill serves as the safety net for the emotional matriarchs.
Moore offers a eulogy of equity and mistreatment with a story that could be taken from a news segment. The play still unpacks a difficult argument regardless of poor direction and careless performances that abandon narrative roots. Nevertheless, she paints the isolated image of a burial site, highlighting how easy it is to walk over a life meant to be honored and remembered.
Passion Play’s potential is left buried under six feet of dirt.
Every Spring Christians remember and celebrate the death of a man too young to die. The Passion of Christ is known as possibly the greatest act ever performed by a mortal man. Jesus Christ sacrifices himself to save the sins of the rest of the world. This willingly sacrifice is followed by grieving mothers, an empty tomb, and a confusion unlike any other. This same type of confusion is the crux of the University of Missouri’s Passion Play, written by student playwright Zahria Moore.
Passion Play’s words soar above the stars as Moore masterfully explores the
deaths of three black youths all sharing the same murderer: a gun. The plays shortcomings arise from fleeting dialogue and muffled diction. A lack of realism exists like a quite fog high above the set, only being kept at bay by Moore’s elevated writing.
A single grave marked “Jonothan” lies center stage. No last name, just a single bible verse lay over the words “Rest In Power.” No one knows who exactly is buried there. Not even the Gravedigger (Alan Toney) as he begins to dig up the grave. A somber mother named Mamie (Dajah Garret) enters the stage caring a bouquet of flowers and quickly becomes distraught as she sees the dirt being removed from “her” son’s grave. The Gravedigger stops digging and leaves to the mother’s short relief. Mamie soon becomes enraged as not only one, but two mothers come by the gravesite claiming their sons are buried in the exact same spot. Martha (De’Janna Scales-Hand) and Mary (Rachel Robinson) confront Mamie defending their claim to the gravesite.
Whose grave is it? Which son is buried there? These questions are what make up the baseline conflict of Passion Play. However, as important as knowing where your own child is buried -the location of the sons’ bodies become backdrop to determining which death deserves the most respect.
Mamie’s son becomes a symbolic character sparking hashtags and cries for justice after he is gunned down by a cop. Passion Play allows the audience to take a step into the lives of matriarchs left with one less child due to gun violence. Each mother’s experience brings to life the aftermath of gun violence, inside and outside the Black Lives Matter movement.
Director Dr. Cat Gleason somehow found a way to turn a diamond of a play back into a piece of coal. The lack of direction created sparse moments of reality as the actors never found the heart of their characters. Uninteresting movements and forced action took you even further out of the play and closer to a coffin of boredom.
Alan Toney’s rich voice and quirky demeanor works as the perfect bookends to a play whose potential was left buried six feet deep. Toney sings a sweet Christian hyme as he opens and closes the show and leaves the audience smiling and wishing that all of Passion Play had as much heart as his small role did.
Dajah Garrett’s portrayal of Mamie is fierce and the most authentic piece of acting that keeps Passion Play alive. Mamie’s monologue blaming herself for the death of her son pulls at your heartstrings and makes you want to reach out and hug the distraught mother.
De’Janna Scales-Hand and Rachel Robinson’s imitation of mothers was there but that’s all it was imitating. The range of emotion was non-existent and muddled dialogue revealed the students and not the grieving mothers.
Passion Play’s simplistic set design of a single grave, bench, and brick fence allowed the actors free range to command the stage, which unfortunately never happened. Dr. Gleason was also the scenic designer and used real dirt in the middle of the turf grave. This allowed the actors to actually dig up the grave and gave the simple set just enough reality to it.
Lighting Designer Babs Randazzo casted a dusk-like-blue over the stage, setting the audience in a relaxed yet apprehensive mood. Sound Designer Brad M. Carlson adds distance chirping of birds to solidify the outdoor space of the graveyard.
Moore delivers a complex message in a simple way. No one’s story is the same, but we can all come together on the experiences that make us equal. Passion Play’s potential was buried underneath mediocre acting but will rise again as her words are unearthed in another time to come.
Thank you Women of KCACTF Region 5.
I am so thankful to be a man. Wait, that’s not right. I am happy the University of Missouri has chosen to produce the tragic-comedy Waiting For Godot this spring. No, that’s not quite it. I am grateful that directors for Waiting For Godot have strictly casted men for generations and I have more opportunity to perform this semester than my female counterparts! Okay, that’s what I meant to say.
Honestly I am excited to be a part of the cast for this show in the spring.
But, honestly I can’t ignore the fact that the department chose to do a male-only show when women, students and faculty, out number the men in the department 3:1. I am not saying we don’t have talented male actors that will do the job well. It is just when over 90 percent of the stage managers, production staff, and directors are all women. . . you start to question why produce a male only show? Each theatre season is different and each year the roles are never consistent. I get that, but why is there still this type of imbalance.
I am being honest here and I have to say I would have never even thought about the disparity in roles available due to gender if it wasn’t for KCACTF. Specifically due to the powerhouse of women at KCACTF.
The whole reason why I am writing this article is because WOMEN ACTRESSES CARRIED EVERY SINGLE SHOW. Argue with me if you want, but in every invited production there wasn’t a male actor that was better than their female counterparts on stage. Want examples? Sure, I’ll give you them.
The University of Nebraska at Kearny’s Eurydice was swept away by the powerful female-lead chorus of stones.
Step Forward’s entire ensemble from the University of Central Missouri gave one of the most impactful performances I have ever seen. However, the songs chosen let their female members shine.
Iowa State University’s Iphigenia would have been dull and lackluster without the performances of Clytaemnestra and Iphigenia. The myth’s typical male tragic-hero was turned on its head as the female actresses stole the stage.
Written by a female student(shout out Zahria Moore), the University of Missouri’s Passion Play has three actresses tell us the story of grief, confusion, and gun violence in the black community. Any errors in production were small in comparison to the elevated writing of the female playwright.
From the first moment of Morningside College’s Trifles, the play’s women had you on the edge of your seat. Mrs. Wright’s eerie demeanor created a platform for the actress of Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters to find a real base of emotion and reality throughout the rest of the show.
Finally the all female cast of Alice In Wonderland from the University of Northwestern St. Paul ended the week on a high note with a whimsical rendition of the classic tale. The actress playing Alice brought out every audience members inner child through her innocent and sensible disposition.
All I am trying to say here is that this week was all about women. This is my first KCACTF festival and I did not know what I was getting myself into. Okay. I’m going to South Dakota for a week for one thing. Like what type of theatre was I expecting to see in South Dakota? I had no idea what to expect, but here I am now writing about how amazing it was to see some genuine performances and pieces of art.
The festival’s theme of inspiring a global community could even be more specific into inspiring a global community of women. All these stellar women performances made me think about the opportunities for women in theatre on my campus and across campuses everywhere.
How do we be advocates for each other at all times? I think we can take a page from Step Forward’s book and just be kind to one another. Look out for each other when no one else is. From my campus to the 1500 other KCACTF participants I can say without a doubt, that the theatre community is the most welcoming group of people I have ever been apart of. We are also extremely extroverted and quite weird at times but hey that’s what makes us, us. As a male I want to be there for any of my female friends or any women in general when they need me. I know that by being an advocate and ally to all we can each make this world a better place.
So I would like to say thank you to all the women at KCATCF for melting my heart and putting on some of the best performances I have ever seen in South Dakota. . . and anywhere else.
This year region 5 introduced a student advisory board, which is a group of students that are looking for ways Festival can be improved over the coming year. Damien Page who is a student on the advisory board has agreed to answer a few questions about his experience.
What does being on the student advisory board mean to you?
I think that being on the student advisory board is a great experience because it’s new and it can help people’s experience in the coming years. This year especially we have a diverse group which can help create underdeveloped voice for minorities in theatre. I also like how the leadership of the festival decided to create this group because it gives them an inside view of what works and what doesn’t, and I feel like I’m making every future festival goer’s experience more worthwhile.
What are some things you’ve done to make sure you’re doing your job on the advisory board?
Since the beginning of festival I always ask people how festivals going for them and what they like and what they dislike. I feel like asking people I don’t know is more helpful than asking the people I came here with.I’ve been taking a notepad to workshops with me and I write down whether or not people are getting the experience they deserve out of the workshop. For example I feel that a LGBT discussion group or forum would help so more people can better understand themselves or can support members of the LGBT community.
What all happened at the student councils?
It started with the festival leadership giving a brief over why they want actual student councils created. Then we all brought up issues we had experienced at festival. For example a lack of workshops, scheduling conflicts, and walking distances. We were talking about forming multiple student councils for students of different communities, for example students with disabilities, LGBT students, etc.
After your experience at the student council, what are some changes you plan on making to give a better response at the closed session on Saturday
I plan on contributing more, because I listened so I can find out more about what they’re looking for and I plan on asking people from my school for a detailed response as to what needs to be changed and why it needs to change. I know the people from my school won’t be nervous to be honest with me. I now understand the importance of communicating things that don’t work and that do work.
How has your experience been at festival? Any issues or problems you’ve experienced?
I find the festival to be really enjoyable, it’s been better than I could have ever imagined. Unfortunately I’ve found issues in the scheduling because i’ve missed workshops that were scheduled right after each other and I didn’t have enough time to make it. The designs workshops have been fun but way too limited and they fill up too quickly.The walking distances are fine until you have somewhere you need to be, and then it becomes a problem, because things fill up too quickly.
Do boundaries belong in art
All of my life, I have been an advocate for pushing the boundaries. I will keep going until someone tells me to stop. Over this last week at KCACTF there have been a few shows that have maybe crossed the line a little. I find myself torn about this because part of me says “that’s gross and now I’m uncomfortable” but another part of me asks the question should art have boundaries?
Are people more bothered by subject matter or how realistic the scene is? I feel like it can be both. There are definitely some areas artists should not explore, such as racial slurs and stereotypes. Everything else is free game unless the art supports hate and/or exclusion. Additionally artists should not be idolized if they have sexual assault/ rape accusations against them or if they promote hate culture.
An example of a show that made people say “he went too far” was at opening ceremony. #//<Embedded>//# created and performed by Patrik Motwani has a few graphic scenes. The moment I’m mainly referring to is when a character gets a little intimate with himself and has an orgasm. Now I wasn’t necessarily bothered by this, but all week I’ve spoken to several people who were. I understand where the negative feeling comes from, but also it’s art why should other people dictate whether it stays within acceptable boundaries. There was several more moments during the performance that people were uncomfortable with, and a lot of people have said they didn’t like it.
There shouldn’t be boundaries in art. Art is a way people express themselves, and no one should be able to limit how someone else expresses themself. Trigger warnings definitely need to exist, and for the most part they do, just not at Festival for some reason.
During the invited scenes a scene was chosen that features a young girl, Michaella Deladia, who goes through the process that occurs after taking a Plan B pill in a bathroom. Once again certain audience members were outraged by the sensitive material. I once again found myself a little uncomfortable, but that wasn’t because of the subject matter, it was because it felt so real. With the combination of great acting and a lot of fake blood, I honestly felt like I was watching a real event happen, but just because I felt uncomfortable does not meant the scene crossed any line. Just because the audience doesn’t have a pleasant feeling throughout the whole show doesn’t mean it’s a bad show or that the show is too intense. I don’t want to go to a show that has a happy story, no set backs, and doesn’t make me feel anything but joy; no one wants to see a show like that. I want theatre and art in general that makes me question things, makes me have several different emotions, and makes me feel more than just happy or just sad.
A personal experience of mine was during my first full length production. I had a scene during which I was thrown to the ground, and I was told that my fall looked to realistic and my director didn’t want audience members to be concerned about me. As an actor I have been told over and over again to be realistic as possible, but all of the sudden I’m being told to not be real? Theatre artists are told not to be realistic with things like falling, fighting, sex, ect. It doesn’t make sense to suddenly tell actors and/ or artists to pull back
In an ITJA session, we talked about Sarah Kane’s Blasted. Blasted is a very difficult show that features a lot of gruesome scenes and it never really has a chill moment. Blasted belongs to a movement called In-Yer-Face Theatre, this movement was all about not filtering writing, and Sarah Kane had no filter. While talking about Blasted the group read a review of the show. The review said that the show was going to make the audience extremely uncomfortable, but it wasn’t a bad production. While Kane hits a few nerves, she expresses herself this way and she should not be restricted from doing so.
Step Forward is a great example of art that may be opinionated and may make some upset, but the show is an honest expression of how the cast feels about issues in society. While Step Forward didn’t trigger anyone, the show definitely features topics that could. Step Forward makes its audience think which is what art should aim to do.
Bottom line art is created for the artist, and The only person that should have say over what is acceptable and what isn’t is the artist themself.