Victory Gardens Theater is having its new plays festival Ignition this weekend. Today I attended two readings, missing Friday evening’s opening with #Newslaves by Keelay Gipson. I would have liked to stay for a third (this evening’s The Tasters by Meghan Brown), but two plays consecutive is about my limit.
This morning’s performance of They Could Give No Name by Exal Iraheta was topical and well-acted. As with Inching Towards Yeolha by Sam-Shik Pai, it contained a supernatural element which held the story together. Plays about immigration—in this case deaths at the southern border—seem hackneyed by now; but with the United States government having established detention camps (mirroring some of the worst of colonialism’s endemic disease-and-abuse-ridden concentration camps) and a mass shooting this morning at an El Paso Walmart with the white gunman apparently denouncing Hispanic “invaders” of formerly Mexican territory, the subject and its themes could not be more pressing. (The play failed to address either reasons for migration or the terrorist response by white males who claim to feel threatened by it.)
Reckoning: Furies from a New Queer Nation by Geraldine Inoa, although seeming to be in a less-finished state than the previous play, was nevertheless more powerful. The two main protagonists were an interracial (black/white) homosexual couple, and the trials (and ultimate dissolution) of their relationship due to structural racism and unexamined privilege on the part of the white partner the central storyline. Some of the acting was phenomenal, and one would hope to see the play mounted with nearly the exact cast. With two strong, sympathetic leads, deficiencies in the script fell by the wayside. The first half felt well-wrought and just about perfect; the second half fell into disorder almost immediately, consisting largely of harangues against the audience either direct or indirect. The feeling was of getting lectured—lectures that no doubt need to be heard—in lieu of tight drama; however the strong connecting thread of the main relationship held the disparate themes loosely together.
Inevitably I questioned my own activities in theater. With impending climate catastrophe, if topical themes be addressed, I want them to include today’s existential peril. My playwriting career effectively ended with the last presidential election and what it portended. If given the chance, I doubt that I could adequately manage the themes of this younger generation of playwrights. I doubt the value of drama—writing plays or playgoing. Even posting here, one is torn between the striving for normalcy despite crisis conditions (oftentimes a laudable endeavor) and a single-focused devotion to the politics of climate destruction.