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Artistic Statement

I believe in America and I've dedicated my life with this singularity of purpose: to write plays that point us towards an identity defined by equality, generosity, and fellowship. Being a playwright is my defining characteristic, it brings out the best in me, and I take it as a call to action to write words like hellfire that make you take a side, take a position, think hard, or feel deeply about where you are in this country right now. Even if you hate me for it.

 

My work is realistic, it's phantasmagoric, and it reflects the low-class, rust belt, Appalachian childhood that formed me as well as the working class laborer career that fed me. But the poor and working class I write about are not an intersectional monolith, because no group is an intersectional monolith. I once considered the foundation of my playwriting to be writing authentically about American poverty until I realized I was chasing validation and even clout. I learned the error of my ways only recently. Now my work highlights the danger of value assessment through intersectional hierarchies, especially racial essentialism, no matter how inviting it is as a redress for past injustice. Because in hushed and whispered circles in our community, I've heard our peers say that poor and working class white Americans had just been too stupid to take advantage of their white privilege. Fuck 'em. They deserve what they get. I felt like such a failure when my own work generated these reactions, especially after I spent years trying to unite communities of color with poor and working white communities. Then I felt the seduction of poison and hatred: why not judge others by their immutable characteristics? NO! I write plays that serve as a cure to that cancerous mindset. I write plays to break the cycle of topdog-underdog. And this isn't a left versus right issue, it's a religious issue defined by zealotry. I'm here to challenge anyone who wakes up and drinks the elixir of absolute moral certainty, whether politically left or right, although if you're reading this, likely left. And maybe you only want to uplift artists and writers who flatly echo your opinions or politics. Maybe you rationalize it through a lens of oppression or marginalization. My work simply asks: what if you're wrong? And have you considered the consequences? 

 

Omens of a greater conflict are on America's horizon. We stand on a precipice as we cosplay ourselves into truly dark territory. My writing simply asks: is it worth it? Before we truly come to hate our neighbor, I'm here to ask you if we've first exhausted all avenues of peace through art. In recent years I've weathered a storm of disappointment to come out the other side optimistic that a reconciliation can be found, even among American radicals. It's my responsibility to challenge an apathetic and listless audience, or worse, an audience so ideologically captured they refuse to shake off the shackles of their complacency. I believe a higher quality of American theater can be made and my work rejects didactic rage-baiting or echo-chambering. I see everyone in this country still baking with the essential ingredient of hope. My work cultivates hope. 

 

Playwrights can be the arbiters of the American narrative and I won't be writing about its decline or fall but about its reconciliation and hope you join me.

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