Artistic Statement

Artistic Statement

I come from a culture that uses its stories like a public relations liaison manages their client’s image. I’m from a family of lace-curtain Irish American Catholics: the lawn looks great, the stone foundation of the house is smart and sturdy, but the lace curtains belie what goes on in the interior of the home. I come from a culture that refuses its stories, its language. Alcohol. Classism. Waste. Depression. Anxiety. The stories that spark our interests are the ones that serve our narratives of generosity, good humor, piety, rhetoric and identity. In this way, I am from a culture that doesn’t want to know itself. This has simple but grave consequences for us: how we perceive others, the ways we understand and perpetuate power, distrusting others who assert themselves through story.

That’s one reason why I write. To stop refusing the language that has created me. To end this refusal of knowing, the denial of what is truest about myself. To reveal the absurdity of living like this. To explore the deconstruction of this power.

So far in my career I have discovered characters for my stories that are engaged in this refusal of themselves. Without being firmly rooted in themselves, they are lost, suicidal, angry, confused and alone. Usually these are the men in my stories. But I also find characters who, while struggling with these same issues of refusing the self, find a strength in their efforts to transcend what they have been taught to believe about themselves, others and the world. These characters discover agency as they interrogate the stories of their culture. These characters are usually women.

I also think that my culture has lost its ability to imagine. Our aspirations are for our children, but they quickly follow in the steps we already took because we have raised them so well in the ways of careerism, consumerism, obedience, soul-silence, logos. This means my culture doesn’t dream. This deeply suffocates our stories. We rely on Super Bowls to help us reflect back to us our meaning. The music of our youth. Bishops and Cardinals. Our distractions. The belief in what’s possible for our lives is passive.

In this sense, I am exploring ways in which my plays can imagine. I am intrigued by the possibility of the simplest aspect of the theatre: the body on stage. Climbing, jumping, burrowing, falling, building, disappearing, resurrecting. What do these actions look like for a body on stage? What are my characters doing? I want to write plays that bring bodies to life! What story would do that? What characters would find this impossible? What characters have stopped dreaming and how does the world shift on its axis when they finally start again? The body is the story. My culture does not believe in bodies.

Perhaps the one thing my culture does believe in, and glorify, is work. Work is good. It makes people good. Work provides. It toughens. Work makes people straighten up. Work makes you worthy. I think that my culture’s understanding of work is selective. My culture sees work through a lens of hierarchy and value. It equates work with purpose. This is what makes work so maddening. My culture cannot acknowledge that work is maddening. How we define purpose is heartbreaking.

So, much of my creative output interrogates work because I think the lives and myths we have created around work are absurd or, worse, unexamined. I tend to think work is impossible, so it should look, sound and feel impossible on stage. A six-foot tall desk on stage. The theatre as a classroom where the characters interact with the audience as students. Imaging cold, calculating jobs that don’t literally exist, but ones that my culture so dearly relies upon to maintain its laughable assertion that stories don’t exist.

My life as father to a beaming boy with Down syndrome brings the exuberance and wonder to my creative body of work. My decade-long career as a public school teacher brings the purpose, tenacity, hope and humanity.

And my belief in the powers of community and endeavors and stories bring me to the theatre.