A Playwright's Inspiration

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The Hotel Eden by Joseph Cornell
From the moment I met playwright Diane Glancy, I have been fascinated by what inspires her to write. From old photographs, to a heart-shaped rock, to a car ride down Highway 2, the stories behind her plays are just as interesting as the plays themselves. Next week, we will begin workshopping our fourth play by Diane, The Bird House, which features a role written specifically for Artistic Director Randy Reinholz. 

So, we put our frybread-filled thoughts on pause for a week or two and turn our attention towards Ropesville, Texas where the heat consumes you, the poverty overwhelms you, and hopelessness is a way of life. It's a grim play but, at the heart of it, is the sense that we will be able to overcome anything that's thrown our way.

Below, in her own words, is what inspired Diane to write the play that will kick off our 2010 First Look Series and it's my hope that these words will inspire you to join us as we begin our journey into The Bird House.
My work usually comes in the process of travel. I was on my way from Kansas to San Diego in 2008. I stopped at my son’s in Texas. The landscape description comes from his place— the ground dried and cracked, the alkali traces, the short, brittle weeds. There’s always baggage to the land. If I stand in a place long enough, situations occur to me.
At the end of the play, I have the following:   
Gratefulness to Native Voices at the Autry for the Naomi Iizuka workshop during the LMDA Conference from which the idea of two women living in a church came.
The idea for the eventual use of videography in the play came from the video work in Craig Wolf’s The Merry Chase, which I saw at the LMDA Conference in 2008. In fact, it was the genesis of the play along with a conversation with Randy Reinholz.
The title came from the actual bird houses on Jean and Randy’s back patio. It was where Randy and I talked one morning about aging, stroke, and puzzlements of the Christian faith— issues probably no one wants to look at.
At the moment, I’m interested in miniaturist theater, an invented term that means a play constricted in a small space. Nailed down. Distilled. For what purpose? Artistic exploration? The downturn of our economy? The way the term, cutback, continually is in the news? The way aging seems to hedge one’s life? (I can’t do what I used to).
I don’t mean miniaturist theater in terms of a short play. The Bird House is a regular one-act. But a miniaturistic play. Though not stated directly, its undercurrent is Native American heritage, a minority culture small in number in relationship to others. It also often is confined to a reservation.
For this play, I’ve been influence by Joseph Cornell, an American assemblage artist of small boxes with a proximity to Surrealism. He’s the author of contained worlds. I want to make a contained world of words.
I want large moments contained in smallness— I want to get as close as possible to the claustrophobic while maintaining a play with very large issues— abandonment, poverty, stroke, death.
I want a rowdy play. A small, quiet, rowdy play with huge, noisy, oversized issues.
I want it to seem the actors hardly can move. I want them hemmed with the smallest stitches by the sharpest needle.
Pierre Reverdy defined surrealism as “a juxtaposition of two more or less distant realities.” In this play, I want the distant realities to be not two but three characters who have enormous distances, yet live together on one small stage.
I want to see their restricted movements. (Even if this play grows with development, I hope it remains a minimalist piece on some level, meaning movement and action take place within a small space that is no space, to maintain the undercurrent of restriction in which the limitation and compression spark a dramatic friction).
I want it to seem like dialogue contained in small boxes of metaphor, with the largest issues held in the tiniest containments— as if the characters were tied together with very short ropes. I want to see the word, diminishment, as a lovely horizon.
In the end, as I travel, I try to catch the flocks of words that lift from passing fields.
The Bird House will be presented at the Autry National Center on Thursday, October 7 at 7p. It will be directed by Stephan Wolfert and feature dramaturgy by Bryan Davidson with a cast that includes Carla-Rae, Ellen Dostal, and Randy Reinholz. For more information, please click here.


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