While working yesterday morning on the lobby display* for Informed Consent, I ducked into the Nextstage. It’s abuzz in there as they finish loading in the set for our next show, Lauren Gunderson’s I and You. The space is being transformed into a teenager’s bedroom, a striking difference from the sparse grown-up’s sandbox of Stranded on Earth.
Audiences and critics alike praise Gunderson’s “delicate but droll play” as this National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere crosses the country. Mixing jazz with selfies, carefree youth with serious questions, I and You comes to Geva following productions at Marin Theatre Company (Mill Valley, CA) and Olney Theatre Center (MD), where it received an extended run. Another production of it at Phoenix Theatre (Indianapolis, IN) will be wrapping up next week.
Gunderson was the keynote speaker (click here to watch her speech!) this past weekend at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. There, the American Theatre Critics Association awarded her the prestigious Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award. It recognizes a new play which premiered professional outside of New York City and comes with a $25,000 prize. Way to go, Ms. Gunderson!
It seems best that any further introduction be done in her own words. In an article for HowlRound, the playwright argues that all classics were once new plays and new plays will one day be classics. Makes me excited for where I and You will go next…
She includes a list of what she “know[s] about writing new plays because [she’s] read old plays.” Here are a few of my favorites:
The first thing you notice when reading the Greeks is that everything is going to hell. Oedipus is dealing with a plague (and a bad case of hubris). Agamemnon can’t seem to shake this constant warring. Everyone has some issues with the gods. The stakes are so high all the time. Everything is life and death. Everything is massive and holy. This is all very exciting to watch.
A hero isn’t very fun if she/he has no flaws. Macbeth teaches us this (so does Lady M). Oedipus of course. If someone is perfect then nothing will go wrong, and it is only when things go wrong that plot—y’know—exists. We know Romeo rushes into things with the ladies, but there he goes again with this Juliet girl. We like knowing the characters better than they know themselves. This is all very exciting to watch.
#9: Go for the Gods
Write about big stuff. That’s what I learn from Euripides, to the Medieval Passion Plays, to Shakespeare, to Ibsen, to Beckett, to now. Write about the biggest stuff you can, the fundamental edge of what humans can take, the struggle for justice or peace, the hot hearth of the heart, the absolutely hilariously insane, the huge mistakes, the grand plans, the existential core of time and life. It’s not an imperative as much as a f—— joy. We get to write about that stuff. We are able to tell those stories. Why waste the stage on anything less?”
Thanks for the advice, Lauren Gunderson… I’ll share a couple more favorites before I and You opens, but in the meantime:
Huzzah for new plays!
*And it looks good. Just sayin’. If you want to know what it is, come see Informed Consent before it closes Sunday!