A painter and an elephant meet in a park—the elephant has recently lost her job at the zoo and the painter has lost her confidence ahead of an important opening. The two discuss their respective existential and philosophical dilemmas, eventually reaching an unexpected resolution.
How is it that we come to know someone? Particularly someone we’ve never met in person, or only interacted with occasionally and in a certain setting. Think of that strange feeling you may have had as a child when you saw one of your teachers out in the world doing normal un-teacherly things. In this play I’m asking questions about how we come to know a person as something more than the role they play in our lives or the definition we have in our heads for them.
What if you could always get what you wanted from the other person in every conversation? What if there was a systematic approach to communicating that would never leave you feeling like you had messed up, that you hadn’t said what you wanted to say? Those are the questions that led me to first write a short essay on the topic, and then later morph the ideas of that essay into a character who develops a theory to help overcome her own problems with communicating.
Both my aunt and my grandmother attended the same secretarial college in St. Louis, MO—Miss Hickey’s School for Secretaries. After doing a little digging I discovered that not only is this school still well known among many generations of St. Louis residents, its founder Margaret Hickey has a fascinating and rich history all her own. This play was inspired by Margaret Hickey and the many generations of women who graduated from her school.
How does the place we’re in dictate our behavior? When can we reimagine our role even when we’re in a space that seems to dictate a single way of being? These are the questions that inspired me when I worked with a choreographer to develop this dance piece.
Benjamin Franklin is a figure that most Americans and many non-Americans feel they know well. But the man we think we know as Ben Franklin is almost entirely a mythic figure—an incredibly persistent and omnipresent myth. Why do we want to believe that myth? What’s attractive about it to us as a culture, and what purpose does it serve? And what would it mean for Franklin to be portrayed as a human being instead of an idol?
Radical politics is a serious endeavor that many people engage with for a lifetime, struggling to reach a revolutionary end point. But many people who engage with radical politics burn out quickly, or their lives change, or they can no longer sustain the lifestyle demanded by their strict beliefs. My initial relationship with this world was relatively brief, and looking back on it, I wanted to find a way to respond to it with a humorous gaze, highlighting a very small slice of the human realities of living at the fringes.
How do we decide whether to live a life of pleasure, honor or contemplation? And when do we decide? Or is it decided for us, before we even start to live?
I was reading a lot about science and how we come to learn things about the world, and kept hitting on the notion of causality. People were interested in establishing causality—finding a way to show that one thing led to another. In this play I wanted to take apart the idea of causality, play around with it a little, see what happens when it’s not so easy to figure out what led one thing to happen and not the other.
Around the time I started writing this play, online dating was just beginning to take off and there was a lot of marketing and discussion around the notion that people were happier and healthier in relationships than they were single. There were also a number of new pieces of legislation coming out in Europe that gave couples and families major tax breaks (above the breaks that most straight couples already get in countries around the world) for simply being in a relationship and/or raising children. There was something creepy to me at the time about this confluence of pressure, and the fact that governments seemed to be getting involved in the match-making.