Bringing Theatre into Museums & Museums Into Theatres
What is the best way to tell a story?
By training, I am a historian and museum educator. I currently work for the Library of Congress, where I help develop content for in-person experiences for youth and families. But by night, I am a playwright, essayist, and poet. My writing has been published in Smithsonian and Hyperallergic, produced nationally and internationally by professional and community theatres, and performed both virtually and in site-specific historic settings.
The American theatre has done women wrong, and I write to change that. I’m a fat woman who believes that plays should be written and written and performed by people of all body sizes, all gender identities, and ethnic and racial backgrounds. I write about topics that so many people experience but are “unsafe” for polite conversation—infertility, adoption, intergenerational trauma, family separation, divorce, interracial relationships, and abortion. My process starts with characters, who I then put in uncomfortable situations—a divorced couple stuck on a roller coaster, a comedian in a fertility specialist waiting room, a high school reunion. In the awkwardness, they speak their truths, whatever is real to them. My goal as a playwright is to cultivate a space where people can talk about what’s real.
I’m a historian by training and profession, but I don’t write period plays. Instead, I write plays that are shaped by a sense of history, whether that’s capital H history or personal memory. Although I live in Washington D.C. now, I’m an Italian-American from northern New Jersey who speaks with my hands. I tried to resist this when I first started writing, but my plays are also very much from New Jersey. Folks from New Jersey are honest, direct, and don’t beat around the bush. So are my plays.
Audiences have used a host of adjectives to describe my plays—dark, funny, intimate, sweeping, vulnerable, distant. It doesn’t bother me that there were such contradictions in how people receive my plays. Above all, I write plays about what is real. Real life is an ocean of contradictions.