It is said that people write to entertain, persuade, or inform. Some people do a variety. Many of you don’t know, but I am a published author. I wrote two books: I Choose Hope: Overcoming Challenges with Faith and Positivity, and Hope for Today. I contributed to 5 anthologies. I also am a co-playwright. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would become an author or better yet a playwright. I have always loved plays, reading them, and dissecting them, but me a playwright? I didn’t think so. Until I had a mission. A mission to spread awareness and light to various issues. To bring about a platform, so that people can feel that they can talk about these various issues. And to bring awareness to these issues at hand. Many people don’t know what it is like living with a rare disability or being an adoptee. These are the struggles I bring and want to bring awareness to, thus creating a play.
Because I struggled with my own identity and wanted to bring awareness and attention to it, I sought out a friend that could help direct the piece. Soon we started writing together. After about 4 years of writing, dreaming, and workshopping No Limits was formed and put on the stage at the MN Fringe Festival. Playwriting is tough, but when you have a topic that is near and dear to your heart it is important to write about it. This is what I, and local playwright Harrison Rivers did.
This same awareness and attention to issues is what local playwright Harrison Rivers does in his work. Harrison is a playwright who has recently brought his work to the Playwrights’ Center for help and critique. He found it helpful and engaging. I had a chance to interview him on his experiences.
Describe your art. What you do?
I’m a playwright. Sometimes I wish I were more of a hyphenate art maker. You know, that I also directed and designed and choreographed and wrote short stories and knitted sweaters – but I only do the one thing.
I try to write the very best plays I can.
I know you recently wrote a play. What is the play and what is it about?
The play is called the Bandaged Place. I wrote it many years ago when I was living in New York. I decided to revisit it for the Ruth Easton New Play Series at the Playwrights’ Center.
The play concerns Jonah, a black gay man, who is recovering from a violent attack he suffered at the hands of his now ex-lover. It’s a pretty unflinching look at domestic violence and its aftermath; the difficulty of moving forward and the need for support.
It’s certainly not a comedy, but it manages to be quite funny.
Why did you decide to go to the Playwrights Center?
I moved to the Twin Cities almost four years ago on a Jerome Many Voices Fellowship through the Playwrights’ Center. It quickly became my artistic home.
I have been fortunate to develop several plays there – through fellowship workshops as well as through the Ruth Easton New Play Series.
What was the process like in working with them? Describe what you did with them and how the two nights of staged readings went.
The workshop process involved five rehearsals over five days and then two public readings.
Over the course of those five days we read the play aloud, [we] discussed what we heard, and I made changes [accordingly]. During the Monday rehearsal, Saheem Ali, my director, rehearsed the play at music stands in preparation for the reading.
I was pleased with the audience response.
How many other plays have you written?
I’m not sure how many plays I’ve written, or half written or thought about writing.
I’ve listed eleven on my website [I actually went and counted], but that’s just a sampling.
Describe your writing process.
Every play demands something different. This play wants to be written backwards. That play wants to have music. I try to listen as best I to the work – to the characters, to the narrative. I believe that the work itself will tell you what it wants to be.
I usually find writing first drafts to be an agonizing process. I love editing. I also love responding [on the page] to feedback.
How long did it take you to write the play?
Honestly, I wrote the first draft so long ago, I don’t remember.
But I tend to think about a play for a long time and then write it very quickly.
What made you decide to write this piece and what influenced you to do so.
When I was twenty-four I was stabbed six times with a kitchen knife by my boyfriend. I had just moved to New York for graduate school [in fact, I was in my first week of graduate school when it happened] and one of the conditions of my continued enrollment was that I go to therapy. I made very little progress in the meetings until my therapist suggested that if I didn’t want to talk, I write a play.
Describe to me what you hope the play would do for people.
For me, part of telling this story is to draw attention to the issue. There isn’t a lot of discussion about domestic violence in same-sex relationships and especially not in male-male relationships – a population that might not be inclined to speak up for various reasons. Fear. Further marginalization. Shame.
My thinking is, if I share my story, maybe it will encourage others to do the same.
What are your upcoming shows about?
I wrote the book for Five Points, which is currently running at Theatre Latte Da. And my play, This Bitter Earth, opens at Penumbra on April 26th.
What's your suggestion for those that want to become a playwright?
Read and write as much as you can.
And not just theater. Fiction. Non-fiction. Poetry.
And see dance. And visual art. And music.
And eat good food.
Good food is essential to becoming a playwright.
For more information on Harrison Rivers go to: http://www.harrisondavidrivers.com/about/