This morning, the wonderfully informative, inspiring and addictive newsletter Brain Pickings featured Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I first read Bird by Bird in college. Originally, I had enrolled at UT as a journalism major. I quickly realized that I wouldn't be able to tell the truth in that field ... at least not the way I understood truth at that time. So, I switched my major to screenwriting and took every playwriting and performance ethnography classes that were offered.
After my first playwriting class with Amparo Garcia Crow, I bought Bird by Bird from the Barnes and Nobles on the Drag in Austin. (The store has since along with many old haunts as since closed.) It's a witty, wonderful book, quite worn with wear, that I return to now and again for inspiration and solace. One the quotes that Maria Popova, references is one that deeply resonates with me:
"As we live, we begin to discover what helps in life and what hurts, and our characters act this out dramatically. This is moral material. … A moral position is a passionate caring inside you. We are all in danger now and have a new everything to face, and there is no point gathering an audience and demanding its attention unless you have something to say that is important and constructive. My friend Carpenter says we no longer need Chicken Little to tell us the sky is falling, because it already has. The issue now is how to take care of one another."
"How do we take care of one another?"
I ask this question a lot. I ask it in the face of senseless and harrowing accounts of callous disregard for human life. I ask it as the gap between the wealthy and poor continues to increase at staggering rates all the while services to the poor are threatened and slashed. I ask it when thinking about the nation's failing education system and the beyond broken prison system. I ask it in the wake of reports of bullying, rape, child abuse and the recent reports of the knockout game.
I'm overwhelmed by these ceaseless breaking news reports and editorials that attempt to capture the violence and articulate the cause. I'm often inundated with fear, anger, sadness, frustration and a sense of helplessness. Where is the human decency and personal integrity in all of this? Why are we ruled by pride and not humility, honor and common sense? Why is there so much anger? How do we shift this anger into something positive and productive? How have we failed each other, this generation? How do we teach our youth that there is something beyond themselves that they can serve, be it spiritual or for the good of mankind?
Trying to answer these questions is why I wrote LOVE BROTHERS SERENADE, a hiphop infused drama that follows two young men, Reynaldo and Ricardo, as they struggle for survival and fight to forge their own identities in DC's inner city ghettos. It explores the impact of neglect, systemic racism, and gentrification on inner city communities, the effect of which creates an environment ripe for street gangs, violence, and drug/alcohol abuse.
This play has received a lot of attention lately. It was a 2013 Semi-finalist at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference and recently a finalist for the Source Festival Full-Length Plays. I hope it finds a home somewhere, because the community engagement work that I want to do around this play involves educators, artists, social workers, policy makers, religious and civic leaders, and most importantly, young people. With this play. I want to try to find answers to how we better care of one another. As a theatre artist, this is one way that I can start the dialogue and mobilize action for change
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!