I write to understand the world both around me and inside of me and to upend my assumptions about those places. I believe that specificity and interrogation of the particular—whether it is mundane or epic in scale—is the straightest line to universality in storytelling. Topics I’m in conversation with include deceit, sex, violence, trauma, fractured identities and community. I’m drawn to narratives of human brokenness, vulnerability, and folly as much as I am to those of redemption and reclamation. I believe in the ability of theatre to both disrupt and to repair, to engage audiences using tender care and brutal truths. Theatre, because of its immediacy and communal nature, creates complicity between theatre makers and audiences. That is one way to feel less alone in this world. That’s what makes it unique among art forms. I write in styles ranging from naturalism to the experimental. I love dark humor and absurdism. My language is both sparse and operatic, depending upon the needs of the story but it is always purposeful. Language was my first love. I believe in its power as devoutly as I believe in the eternal force that binds us all. Language defines us and the slippery nature of language act to both constrain and liberate. In that way it is not unlike human intimacy itself. Theatre can wound, provoke, consume, repel, and heal. To make plays is to live in the space between human communion and human mortality and to create stories in which those two things can co-exist.
All the above is true, but does feel a tad pretentious, so I’ll also tell you this:
My work is very much informed by my upbringing in a deeply religious, working-class community in Delaware County, PA in the city of Chester. And by the immigrant experience that my grandparents brought with them to this country and implanted in me through their stories, their values, their expectations and their work ethic. These experiences live in tension with my queerness and the middle-class and largely white world in which I now move.
I am unsure of most things in life. I feel like I’m failing my way to where I need to be. I’ve come to see this as a strength. I feel that curiosity is necessary for me to be a reasonable human let alone a skilled playwright. I feel my feelings deeply and cry easily. I can’t watch movies/TV where animals are harmed. I just can’t. My partner has encouraged and supported my work in every imaginable way, and I’m only here because of her. She’d say it was all my doing, but we all know that’s a lie. Her support and belief have sustained me, as has the love and attention of my friends and teachers. Their steadfastness astonishes me every day and I want to honor and repay that love by always working diligently at my craft and paying full attention to each moment.
My childhood was bracketed by trauma, religion and the white working-class of the industrial Northeast. The bridge leading to my childhood home has a slogan forged in metal that reads: What Chester Makes, Makes Chester. Those makers—of paper, of refined oil, of ships that fought this country’s wars—made me, both for good and for ill. Religion is a constant in my life; I was raised in Polish/Ukrainian Catholic churches and, as an adult, converted to Judaism. I always try to locate the ritual, metaphor, and sanctification in writing. Writing, for me, is going to shul, it is reciting the Shema declaring the oneness of God and all creation. Writing is prayer and purpose. I think people are tender and beautiful and that they are also monsters, and I struggle with this contradiction every day and work hard to accept that there is no simple resolution to these conflicting truths.
I believe that brokenness is more compelling than the palatable and the slick. I believe lies reveal heartbreaking truths and that the ways we lie are infinite. I believe life is a scar that heals over time, one that we ignore at our own peril. I believe that healing only comes from recognition and recognition is only possible when we open ourselves up to uncertainty, to our own fears, and to the fragility of the spirit. I think there is so much ugliness but it is a human duty to not turn away and that beauty only springs from the courage to see, to witness, to bear witness, and to sit with discomfort.
photo by lisa konoplisky