Since the election, one of the things I’ve heard most often is, “I can’t believe this is where we are; I can’t believe this is what we are.” So I wanted to write something that responded to that disbelief and took it to its extreme conclusion. “Last of Our Kind” is a sort of social horror sci-fi story, which I thought was the right spirit for our political times. There’s not much more to say about the play, other than a wish that it always remains fiction.
What areas of concern in your community do you find yourself curious about or interested in considering for this project?
There have been a lot of discussions lately about what artists can do to “make a difference” in light of our current political spectrum. What do you think we can (or should) do? Or are there pitfalls we need to avoid?
My day job is at The Westport Library in Westport, CT. I’m the program specialist there, and I think libraries deserve a special shout out for being institutions of learning, of curiosity, of intellectual engagement, of community, of change.
What did you take away from reading the plays from our first residency?
More About Cody: Cody Daigle-Orians is a Louisiana-born playwright and teaching artist now living in Hartford, CT. He is the program and events specialist at The Westport Library in Westport, Connecticut. He was the resident playwright for The Playhouse Tulsa’s 2013-2014 season, the company playwright for Acadiana Repertory Theatre and a company playwright for Manhattan Theatre Works. Plays for The Playhouse Tulsa: William and Judith, Tulsa! A Radio Christmas Spectacular, Little Women and The Bottom of the Sea. Plays for Acadiana Repertory Theatre: In the Bones, The Survivalists, and The Woman’s Part. Plays for Manhattan Theatre Works: Providence, A Home Across the Ocean. His work has been produced and/or developed at the Astoria Performing Arts Center, New Jersery Repertory Theatre, The Actors Company Theatre (NYC), The Growing Stage (Netcong, NJ), SNAP! Productions (Omaha, NE), Gadfly Theatre (Minneapolis, MN), StageRIGHT (Seattle, WA), Prologue Theatre Company (Chicago, IL) and the Great Plains Theatre Conference (Omaha, NE).
/ To Whom It
was inspired by
a friend’s FB post
re: a Native play
a new sculpture
based on a scaffold
Here’s a quote from her post (also included with her permission in the ensemble spoken word poem play):
“NOBODY came to our event tonight because our ENTIRE audience went to protest at the Walker instead of celebrating OUR own Native-made art right here. A perfect example of how our communities of color are forced over and over to defend our people and histories and to educate at the expense of celebrating our own vitality.” — Rhianna Yazzie, Founder, New Native Theatre, MN
Here’s the goal of this Letter:
“Putting the history side-by-side to the night when people from the Native community had to choose to either celebrate who we are or fight for our voices to be heard.” — Vanessa Goodthunder (Dakota), Company Member, New Native Theatre
To learn about New Native Theatre:
Jaisey Bates is the kind of playwright that, once you meet/work with her, you kind of just want to invent more reasons to get a chance to work with her again. Not only are her words achingly beautiful, but her personality is so engaging and honest that I find myself awed by even her emails.
Which is why I am so totally thrilled to announce that Jaisey will be participating in our 2nd Heal the Divide online residency! I’ll be sharing Jaisey’s first Heal the Divide play next week, but you don’t have to wait that long to get to know more about this talented and creative human. Check out my interview with Jaisey below.
What about our Heal the Divide project captured your interested/why did you decide to participate in this initiative? What questions, as a playwright, are you most drawn to explore in your work?
A ‘Fermat’s Last Theorem’
short scene answer attempt
(to save time so folks might
spare a few moments more
for perusing Protest Play PDFs),
/ from whence these
/ my words.
the (mortally?) wounded
world around her.
It does not
the Story Math
“Who lives, who dies,
who tells [the] story”
an invitation to
add three gatherings
of words to the
/ To Whom
What areas of concern in your community do you find yourself curious about or interested in considering for this project?
I currently live in LA which has the largest urban population of Natives in the U.S. Most of my words speak from an Indigenous perspective.
There have been a lot of discussions lately about what artists can do to “make a difference” in light of our current political spectrum. What do you think we can (or should) do?
as we try
a more just
of our children’s
And of theirs.
My words and I
stand this ground
Are you engaged in any other organizations fighting for change or progress that you want to give a shout out to?
Some hashtags for movements of interest and action, mostly through writing and staging plays:
What did you take away from reading the plays from our first residency?
Intriguing range of perspectives and approaches from the resident playwrights. Also fascinating: the college Heal the Divide on Campus initiative. I hope we online folks might have the chance to read some of the students’ efforts.
More About Jaisey:
Jaisey Bates, a misplaced Maine-iac in LA, writes and performs with her nomadic multicultural theater company, The Peoplehood. LA and NYC venues for her words have included the Agüeybaná Book Store, Art/Works, Eclectic, EST/LA, Lounge, Naked Angels, Native Voices at the Autry, Open Fist, Performance Loft, Playwrights’ Center Stage, Samuel French Bookshop, Studio/Stage, Unknown and Victory theaters. Her words have enjoyed road trips to several states and teleportation to Canada and the UK. Her full-length plays include The Day We Were Born, RUN, This Radiant Wasteland, and Variations in the Key of White. Real Time, her fancydance variation on Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, is The Peoplehood’s Menu of Performance Possibilities, an ever-evolving multitude of mix-and-match short plays and spoken word pieces. Her motto is “Have Words. Many Words. Many, many Words. Will travel.” Her education includes Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, American University in Cairo (Fulbright/Johns Hopkins SAIS) and Loyola Marymount (MA in English). She wrote a blog, “Native communities and climate change, center stage”, for the HowlRound’s ‘Theater in the Age of Climate Change’ series. She tends to speak of herself in the 3rd person. She also answers to the name Planet Nine. She is very grateful to Brilliant Words Warrior Woman Tiffany Antone for this chance to work toward Healing the Divide. She hopes with all her heart that we will learn to walk in beauty this beloved ground.
One of the things I’ve LOVED about our first Heal the Divide residency is how unique each of our playwright’s voices have been. Including their beautiful, powerful, moving, short plays has been an honor! We are gearing up for our second Residency, and I’m seriously excited about each of our new playwrights! But before I tell you all about them, I’d like to share this final group interview I conducted with Mikki, Diana, Jen, Taijee, and David.
Q- What was surprising to you about writing for (or reading) Heal the Divide?
David — I came in with just one idea, but of course knew I’d be writing three plays. So what’s surprising is the wealth of things to respond to; it’s alarming to live in the time we live in, but it does provide a lot of stuff to draw from.
Jen — I am surprised at how optimistic and hopeful the project has made me feel. Also, how joyful both writing plays and reading the other plays has been.
Mikki — How each playwright is speaking from their local perspective in some fashion, and the national implications are so evident.
Diana — I am surprised at how easily the work came, and how much all the writers are responding to. There is so much material to work with. Our society seems to be at a tipping point.
Taijee — I was so happy when reviewing my work to see how much I observed in just watching people! I loved hearing all of the different voices in the writings of everyone involved! It was very worthwhile!
Q- Have you found yourself reading more local news or eavesdropping on neighbors in a deeper way?
Taijee — I definitely find myself eavesdropping a lot more. I find that whenever I travel, someone and/or something that someone has said, always catches my ear.
David — So, a thing about living where I live (NYC) and taking the transportation I do (the subway) is that I am constantly bombarded by the close proximity of other voices. I don’t know that I’m listening MORE, but I am definitely hearing.
Mikki — I love eavesdropping on my neighbors! But only to the extent that I can hear them from my porch. I live in an area densely populated by retirees, and they have a lot of opinions—and a lot of time to opine! My favorite thing is listening to one person argue why Hillary should go to jail and the other piping up about pussy-grabbing. To each other. As if this is how we find common ground. This is what our discourse has devolved into. No high powered anyone is going to jail, and pussies are for grabbing. In case you hadn’t heard.
Jen — I am also a total eavesdropper. I always have been. I’ve noticed folks have become very reactive these days. Also, I think folks are listening closely now.
Diana — I have listened to a lot. In my building there have been marriages and friendships that have broken up due to the current situation. As a matter of fact, my DACA play came from a situation I overheard. People are talking about these issues, out loud. Americans are both comfortable with, and repelled by confessional conversations and it seems like we are hearing a lot of it.
Q- Where have you been looking for inspiration?
Taijee — I think about some of the people I grew up with and some of the stories that stuck with me involving them. It helps me draw from that dark place inside of me that still needs healing. Writing helps me to do that.
David — Oh, God, I love and bless Wonkette. They take NO PRISONERS, whereas I tend–at least in my writing–to want to explore all sides of character. Twitter and the NY Times are constantly throwing divisions that need healing in my face.
Mikki — I try to look to everyday people for inspiration. When a news story crosses my path, it’s often something I found on Fark or Reddit (and then proceed to try and suss out the veracity of the story). I like those types of places to mine for “news” because of the collective consciousness it seems to be born of. If it’s lies and subterfuge, the readership poke holes in it pretty fast. NPR is my usual go-to for news when I’m looking for substance.
Jen — It’s not about me. Inspiration finds me, and I get out of the way. Usually, at some point, there’s one thing that makes the whole piece cohesive.
Diana — It’s pouring out of me. I’m a political junkie, and the drugs have been so bad lately.
Q- What would you like to see happen as a result of your Heal the Divide residency?
Taijee — If I could just touch one person and inspire them to do what they love by overcoming the divide, that would be good enough.
David — I would loooooove to see these plays, all 15 of them, combined in a reading series or something. That would be so exciting, to see our wildly different voices bumping up against each other and soaring together. Because so far the plays feel harmonious and utterly distinct. Really exciting.
Mikki — I hope it encourages more people to blaze an art-filled path towards a better world.
Jen — I want to second what Taijee, David, and Mikki said. I’m awful at being result-oriented. Right now, I’m focused on process.
Diana — I hope it encourages people to write their way out, to quote Hamilton. To use their brains to find solutions to the pain instead of violence.
Q- One of the goals of this project is to bring disparate communities together by exposing them to plays inspired by each playwright’s community. How do you see theatre affecting/interacting with audiences to affect change?
Taijee — TIP Harris, a rapper, answered a similar question that involved his and other artists lyrics and their effect on the communities that listen to it. His response was, “If you want to change the message of the song, change the environment of its origin.” I believe the theatre can do the same thing. Instead, we change the environment by letting people know what the message is upfront and exposing them to the truths in which they, and by they I do mean all of us, choose to want to hide.
Mikki — I think the compelling thing about theater is it goes unchanged in how it can reach right into an audience member-or actor for that matter-no matter the era. If an issue is playing out in front of someone, just absorbing the story gives them space to feel it from a different perspective. It’s literally the incarnation of “I never really thought of it that way.”
Jen — When I think about work that has affected me and changed my perspective, I doubt very highly that the writer set out with the intention of rocking Jen’s world. However, I think those works contain a lot of truth and commitment to that truth.
Diana — I hope theatres can get past the radicalization of Spanish, and embrace this new majority minority. I hope they can be brave and learn to hear new words without feeling excluded and thereby excluding in the process.
David — The great goal for me is to see great diversity on stage but also in the audience. And then to encourage continued interaction after the play is over — to urge people to discuss what they’ve seen, what they feel. So it’s as much about the extratheatrical experience as the theatrical one from lights up to lights down.
Did you have a favorite play in this series? If so, what about the play made it stand out to you?
Diana — The play I wrote after Charlottesville (Rally), started out with anger towards the young white woman, and every rewrite I was filled with more and more compassion for her situation. It forced me into her shoes, and I learned about her. That was powerful. To get past initial impressions and move towards compassion.
David — Mikki’s Joe Arpaio play (The Reality) really killed me, in the very best way. Just gutting. So, so powerful.
Taijee — I was very surprised how far, Between Love and Hate, went for me. To see students and faculty interested in my work was very moving for me. I look forward to the years to come.
Jen — I don’t have one favorite play either written by me or one of the other writers. For me, the joy of the project was its variety. I also enjoyed reading the new plays every week and being impressed by everyone’s range and creativity.
Mikki — Let me break the rules. There were a few plays that stood out-and by stood out, I mean they had me up at night thinking. They were: Boxes by Jen Huszcza-the way she used movement to speak was so powerful. Rally by Diana Burbano-the image of a child in a klans robe just tied me up in knots. Swing Low by Taijee Bunch was a trip into the first terror some of us ever know in life. And Meanings Of Love by David Hilder catches you completely off-guard with the line ‘don’t assume’…whew. Powerhouses. I enjoyed reading all of the resident’s works, but those really stood out to me.
Q- Now that the first residency is over, do you have any advice for other playwrights who want to write plays from/about their own communities but maybe aren’t sure how to start?
Diana — Write! Scraps of conversations, monologues, devise pieces with community. The stories are there, they just need to be given permission to be born.
David — YES, what Diana said. Consecrate words to page. Build. Make.
Taijee — Definitely agree with Diana! Write your heart out! Be honestly sincere! Don’t be afraid to live in the uncomfortable!
Jen — Don’t be afraid (like Taijee said) of writing something imperfect. Also, maybe as a starting point, think about what the word, Community, means to you.
Mikki — Poking around the local theater and library are good starting places where like minds can be found. Collaborate. This is something we can all take part in. Write. Go get it.
Q- Any parting words you’d like to share with Heal the Divide fans?
Diana — May we all find the joy we need and see hope in the cracks.
David — Thank you. I hope we all find ways to honor each other’s inherent humanity.
Taijee — Thank you to everyone who took the time out to read our plays! It means so much! Keep striving hard and seek a life useful to create harmony among all peoples.
Jen — There are fans? Hello, I wish you ease.
Mikki — Thank you for reading our work and for showing interest in the project. Three cheers for peace and goodness!
Thank you again to our FABULOUS playwrights! Thanks for your support and engagement with this project. We look forward to sharing more socially conscious new works with you, beginning in November!
The ending of DACA, and the lack of response to Puerto Rico, made me want to dig deeper into stories of the immigrant community. I recently met a woman, a beautiful Mexican woman who is a jazz singer, who shared with me heartbreaking stories of how she had been treated as a Mexican in America. How her humanity was questioned because she worked minimum wage or under the table jobs. I had another friend who recently saw her daughters fiancé off to basic training. He assumed that of course he would be naturalized, because he was willing to die for his adopted country. He had been singled out by recruiters because he was a poor undocumented Latino. I put the stories together, and it became a short story of a mother saying goodbye to her child.
It took me several drafts to get to the play below. The image of boxes fighting for space came to me after Charlottesville. I had also been reading Jeremiah Moss’s Vanishing New York about the gentrification of New York City in the twenty-first century.
At first, I had the boxes talking, but then I realized what they were saying was redundant. The gestures were what I needed. This is the first time I’ve ever put charts in a play.
Since this is the last play of the cycle, I wish to thank Tiffany and Heal the Divide for letting me react to the news cycle in my own way. I want to thank my fellow playwrights whose work delighted me and challenged me.
Every week we will be sharing new plays by our Heal the Divide playwrights. This week’s play is a monologue titled Swing Low, by Southern Arkansas University student Taijee Bunch, a playwright from Lonoke, AR.
I wrote this piece because I wanted to continue on with the trend of breaking the barriers of stereotypes in my community. A huge one that included myself, was that there aren’t many positive male figures in the stereotyped black home. I feel that this was a sensitive area for me and the men in my community. I actually didn’t have a strong relationship with my dad until I was much older and I grew to understand and appreciate him, however a lot of families aren’t that lucky. I hope that this piece will inspire black men to see that there definitely needs to be a change in the way we see ourselves and how others see us.
This summer, when the Affordable Health Care was under attack from a vicious, callous, greedy GOP, we invited writers to pen their own obituaries in protest. We didn’t get a lot of entries – maybe because PPP was just getting started, maybe because the GOP’s pernicious bills kept getting (narrowly) defeated and people felt like we had this whole thing in the bag… and yet, here we are again.
So we’re going to post the entries we DID receive. And if you want to add an obit of your own, we’ll post that too. Just follow THIS LINK to send it our way.
And in the meantime, let’s make sure the latest effort to strip healthcare from millions and line the pockets of Insurers at the cost of real live human beings, is another festering failure. Because state representatives should be working to FIX our healthcare system, not turn it into an elite privilege!
Here lie the partial cremains of the New Deal, picked at, shredded, then pulverized into ash. The final rites ironically pronounced by Richard Nixon. Its fate augured by a decades-long, slow motion car wreck. So, dearly beloved, we stand with only a shred of protection against the death dealers. Katrina and DAPL. Mortgage meltdowns and pretty corruptions. Everywhere violence and endless spin. Let us lean away from the everlasting arms of credit and positive thinking and fortify ourselves with celebrity. We face a world that is reordering itself. It is neither brave, nor new. Complete recovery might no longer be possible. But we must fight for what remains, candles to darkness.
Ms Burbano was a writer, an actor and a general pain in the neck. She arrived from Colombia to Cleveland as a little girl, and resented it. Mostly because, well, Cleveland. (If a river is on fire, is there anyone to put it out?) Burbano, in the way of many overprivileged immigrant children, was an A-1 slacker, barely graduating from the overpriced catholic HS her parents put her in in the hopes of curbing her voracious sexual appetite. No, she didn’t go to college.
Thanks to years of therapy and medical marijuana, Burbano became a useful member of society. Thanks to the NEA she found some fame through her filthy, provocative writing.
Regrettably, or not if you happen to be one of her writing students, Burbano was diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer. She had been a faithful client of Planned Parenthood since an unfortunate incident in Sophomore year. Due, however, to the cuts in funding for medical programs during the blessedly short lived Trump administration, or as historians prefer: The White Trash Rebellion of 2016, Burbano was unable to get even the most basic of medical check ups, and the cancer raged through her body at a speed both startling and decisive.
She lived long enough to see Trump taken away in an orange jumpsuit that matched the shade of his skin, and died with the words, “That tangerine bastard deserved what he got.”
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to her favorite organization, Send Trump Followers to the Underworld, or STFU.
Here lies a woman whose blood pressure couldn’t handle the insidious, fallacious, GOP. A woman whose “pre-existing condition” of common-sense-ness was done in by the sheer idiocy of Trump and all the self-serving elite Republicans using Trump’s Tweet Shield as a diversion to neuter the American spirit under cover of a media too spun out to provide focus. A woman who wants just a few moments of United sanity with which to recover some of her own sanity. A woman who dreams big, but sees only smallness on the horizon with the GOP tightening the noose on millions of working class poor for their own grotesque gain. F*** Trumpcare, and the bullshit-fed, blinded, and abused elephant it rode in on.
Karuna Das, who, despite having a foreign name (Sanskrit for “servant of compassion”), was not an immigrant but rather a red-blooded native American –but not an actual Native American (red-blooded, not red-skinned) or even an actual lndian (the ones who invented that yoga stuff) — died today of a ruptured aneurysm of the aortic root, brought on by high blood pressure due to anxiety over the state of the nation. Simply put, the deceased’s expansive heart was too hard-working for the body politic encompassing it. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to anyone recommended by Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.
In this piece — which, yes, I wrote while in London (today) — I wanted to step back from everything and look at conversation, that lost art I so often miss in political discourse. I started out thinking about the weather and ended up with some sort of neo-Socratic dialogue, which wasn’t my aim, but that’s the great thing about writing: Being surprised.