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.
“It’s an interesting time to be in New York. We have a POTUS who’s a New Yorker, we have a recently hired (and even more recently fired) White House Communications Director who’s a New Yorker…it’s not exactly a great time to take any pride in being a New Yorker. (I hasten to add I’m only one by adoption, though at the almost 22 year mark, I feel comfortable here to say the least.) So that’s been on my mind. The other thing I’ve been thinking about, a lot, is how to think of people I can’t stand politically as actual human beings, seeking to find pleasure and avoid pain and get through the day like everyone else. Those two thought trains collided, and perhaps crashed and burned, in this play.”
I have been fascinated by what has looked like political heel-dragging on the part of Governor Andrew Cuomo regarding the decrepit New York City subway system, which is in need of a massive overhaul. (Despite what many think – including a lot of NYC residents – the MTA’s budget is controlled by the state, not by the city.) There are recent signs that the governor is paying attention to a situation reaching crisis levels for millions of his constituents, but it has felt like a whole lot of playing catch-up. So I wanted to imagine being in his shoes. For those who want extra credit, you can read more about this issue HERE and HERE. Also, I’d like to say that at the time of this writing – July 2, 2017 – I’m more than aware that this play, more than most, may have a seriously brief shelf life!
You can read more about the Heal the Divide initiative HERE.
You can read more about all of our Heal the Divide playwrights HERE.
I know, I know – you’re thinking “Another white dude writing plays in NYC… What has he got to say that we’re not already seeing on stage?” But maybe that’s because you haven’t yet met David Hilder.
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to get invited to the Great Plains Theatre Conference with my play TWIGS AND BONE. The conference was AWESOME for quite a few reasons: the actors and directors were dedicated and passionate artists who put their all into my reading, I got to attend a TON of new play readings which were all kinds of awesome, the food was off the charts delicious (they feed you lunch every day!!!) and the fellowship with other hungry playwrights was amazing! One of the playwrights I met there connected me to a company that later produced my play, others have had their work produced by my theatre company, Little Black Dress INK, and others still stayed on my friends-who-write-awesome-things radar until I could ask them to participate in our Heal the Divide Initiative…
You see, I’m talking about David again.
David has a knack for accessing personal stories. He is a thinking, feeling playwright who paints interesting worlds and writes strong female voices. He’s not afraid to dive into the magical or the otherwordly if a play wants to go there. And he’s engaged in his community, listening and paying attention to the heartbeats around him.
He also happens to live in New York City – and although we see a lot of work from NYC playwrights, I haven’t seen a lot about the city itself right now (probably because I’m not in NYC to see what’s happening on its fringe stages/getting workshopped at present). And that’s important for those of us who don’t live in or near to NYC – the wild, electric, politically charged home of lady liberty. For those of us living somewhere in between our pretty blue coasts, a peek into the lives of average New Yorkers might be a really fascinating way of understanding the city that never sleeps.
I’m really looking forward to seeing NYC through David’s playwright eyes as he explores today concerns from his own unique perspective… and I hope you are too!
What about our Heal the Divide project captured your interested/why did you decide to participate in this initiative?
So, to be honest, being asked to participate in something so big-feeling and scary is why I immediately agreed to participate. I follow politics all the time, and while some of my plays (notably Drop of Kindness) are reactions to political situations, I’ve never directly written into what concerns me about the contemporary political climate.
What areas of concern in your community do you find yourself curious about or interested in considering for this project?
I’m a little obsessed with New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, and his weird relationship to NYC’s subway system — he controls its budget, but seems very hands-off about it. The system is really old, and needs a major overhaul, and millions of people depend on it every day. And yet…
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?
I hope we won’t be afraid to provoke controversial responses, including from the left.
What questions, as a playwright, are you most drawn to explore in your work?
I find I tend to write stories about strong women in frustrating situations. Which sounds pretty much like a precis for America in 2017.
Are you engaged in any other organizations fighting for change or progress that you want to give a shout out to?
I would have no idea what to do with my ragefeelingsTM were it not for the excellent FB group Project Hindsight, run by the apparently indefatigable Kat Ramsburg, who is herself a seriously talented playwright.
Do you have any other additional thoughts/ideas you want to riff on that pertain to this project?
Mostly that I hope I can find dramatic form for my ideas!
DAVID HILDER’s plays and musicals include Misfortune (Finalist, 2015 National Short Playwriting Contest, City Theatre); The Moment Before it All Went Wrong (Great Plains Theatre Conference 2015; Finalist, Lark Playwrights Week 2015); Drown (Acadiana Rep; Holland New Voices Playwriting Award, Great Plains Theatre Conference; finalist, Princess Grace Award; ESPA Drills at Primary Stages); Drop of Kindness (The Blank Theatre’s Living Room Series); The Insidious Impact of Anton (Absolute Theatre, Los Angeles – winner of seven StageSceneLA Awards; Winner, Ashland New Plays Festival; Finalist, Lark Playwrights Week); Just exactly like (The Flea Theater; Finalist, Heideman Award); Shake the Santa (GrooveMamaInk); anAtrainmusical (with composer Jess Klein; Neighborhood Playhouse); Gikh-kaa (Raw Impressions); I Have Something to Tell You (with composer Gihieh Lee; Raw Impressions); Maps (with composer Gilles Chiasson; Clear Space Productions; Dixon Place’s WARNING: Not for Broadway Festival; Raw Impression); Leave the Room (Finalist, Lark Playwrights Week and Abingdon’s Wolk Award); Bay Orchard High (Expanded Arts; Cullen/Dumas Productions); Dinner Party! (EST; Smatterfest; Particle Wave Theatre); One for the Books (the intentional theatre group; EST); and, naturally, others. He is also an award-winning director and a recovering actor, and an alumnus of Hunter College (MFA), the University of Pennsylvania, and the O’Neill Center’s National Theater Institute. He tweets, too: @hilderthtrguy Website: www.davidhilder.com