My trajectory as a playwright is defined by a need to advocate for America’s lower class. I use writing to articulate how poorness eliminates and destroys identity. The tools of this destruction include the American fantasy of upward mobility or the mirage “if you work hard enough you’ll get somewhere!” Embedded in the architecture of all my writing is this goal: I want to help others from lower class backgrounds to the victory, however subtle or small it may feel at times, of possessing a healthy identity. Playwriting and theater are my tools because they bring out the best in me and anchor my own identity, past and present.
I grew up in the shadows of rotting, toxic factories. The menacing carcasses of a derelict trash burning power plant and decrepit steel mill loomed over me and forced me to taste their decay. I watched as parasitic rust didn’t destroy these beasts but just transformed them into old gods slumbering on the horizon. They held psychological court in my town and taunted the adults… reminding everyone they were once the glorious givers of life and opportunity. In the wake of their collapse I’d try to escape my urban landscape and retreat to the hills of Appalachia, where I experienced a deep cultural history that I imbue in my work. Only now do I find it humorous that the poverty was even more abject in those sweet smoky mountains. I write authentically about poverty across America starting with the variations of poorness that defined my own life and childhood, from post-industrial rust belt cities to deep hilled Appalachian townlets where the water smells of sulfur. I speak honestly from my point of view and build outwards towards a type of unification, recognizing that the variations of lower class communities in America are diverse and complex. I especially want to unite communities of color with poor and working white communities. And white Americans need to get their own house in order so no emotional labor unfairly falls to a person of color.
I still reserve some hope we can forge a new, shared American identity. One built on equality, generosity, and support. An identity that uplifts those who’ve historically been trodden upon and bounds us to a new frontier. I’ve committed myself with a singularity of purpose towards playwriting and creating theater that gives voice to the poor. I want to write plays that generate empathy or awareness, challenge bias or prejudice. I pray my words hit like hellfire and out of that blaze I find compatriots and allies. A fellowship can emerge of conscience driven creators who strive to eradicate mediocrity through rigor, excellence of storytelling, and elevation of the poor.