BAPF 35 Week 1 was great, an awesome slew of the best new plays on the underground that will surely impress their way to the mainstream of the new play world. Riding the wave of inspiration form all of the plays that came crashing over us, we had an idea: "What are these playwright geniuses listening to while they write, and will that inspiration help us write? Right?!"
So here goes, our first, of many, Playwrights' Playlists for the blog. Each week we will ask a new playwright: What are you listening to?
Kicking off our new experiment is Christopher Chen, writer of The Hundred Flowers Project, with a few inspiring songs in his music library. A few of the songs are directly related with his most recent work such as From the Air which Chris "appropriated and altered a lyric from for the play."
Did this help you write? Did this inspire you? Did this make you wish Music had never been a thing? Share your thoughts with us!
Excited to meet all the artists, sink into focus, write a lot.
Tomorrow afternoon it’ll be my turn to read my entire play, beginning to end, for the group [at BAPF retreat]. That’ll teach me to write an hour and a half of relentless comedy. My abstract compassion for the actor who has to sustain this role over a performance will no longer be so abstract.
I have been supervising the play selection for BAPF, on and off (under various titles), for the last six years. My favorite moment in the process is invariably the first time each year that I read a play I fall in love with. Usually this moment comes just after reading several plays that I don’t consider strong submissions, for one reason or another, and wondering why this year’s batch don’t seem to be as strong as the previous year. And then I open THE PLAY, and just a couple of pages in, the temperature in the room seems to change. I’m no longer reading dialogue executed with various levels of skill. Instead, I’m in the room in the present moment, living with a playwright’s voice. This First Love moment is significant not just for whatever that play might be, but for the possibility that the same kind of excitement and joy lies in many more of the as-yet-unread plays.
When Marissa Wolf called a month ago to offer me "The Hundred Flowers Project," I
was ecstatic. Chris Chen is a dear friend, and I am very fortunate to have been
around the social fringe of his process and thinking on this script for over a
year. It is a piece that he has written, workshopped, re-written,
re-workshopped, re-re-written, and now (with my involvement), currently being
re-re-re-written. It has been previously led by three other directors in
various incarnations, each contributing a significant imprint to its past prior
to landing in my hands. I knew all this coming into the process, and had no
doubt that the play had an elaborate history of its own. I soon found
myself inheriting a script that I did not help develop, a schedule of design
workshops that were committed to prior to my coming onboard, and a cast of
actors hired by another director.
I understood why Chairman Mao had the desire to eradicate China's political
history when he came into power.
Perhaps it doesn’t come up
the first rehearsal, or even the second.
Perhaps you’ve distracted them with the research images you’ve brought
in, or the joke on page 12, or the debate over the proper pronunciation of a
word you’ve made up. But don’t kid yourself; you’ve written a one-person show,
sooner or later the dreaded question will rear its head. Maybe it’ll be the director who poses
it, maybe the dramaturge, most likely the actor. Yes, let’s say the actor playing The Pilot*. Sooner or later,
she will ask it:
The central story of The Hundred Flowers Project involves a group of Asian actors making a play about Mao Tse-Tung called The Hundred Flowers Project, and, in a surrealistic twist, the play they are working on morphs into a play about the making of the play itself. Because of this play-within-a-play structure, I’m often met- when I describe the premise to people- with responses like: “Ooo, very meta.” It’s a response tinged with benevolent irony, as if the person is saying: “Good for you, trying something out. You must be aware this play-within-a-play thing’s been done ad nauseam, and I already feel above it and won’t think it’s clever... but good for you!”