Artistic Statement

Artistic Statement

My parents and my brother don’t watch TV unless it’s sports or the news. I grew up hearing that narrative shows were useless because they didn’t reflect reality, were very one-sided, and a waste of time when there were more important things to do in life. That confused me. Narrative stories seemed like a great way to understand being human. And trying to understand why my family didn’t understand that was what sparked my initial obsession with theater and film. The arts exposed me to people and beliefs that my Italian-Irish-Catholic-Conservative neighborhood was never going to. And my upbringing exposed me to thoughts and behaviors that growing up in an arts filled, Democratic and diverse neighborhood would have never shown me either. I see the beauty, humanity, and the horror in both. That’s why I write.

Whether I’m writing about fraternity girlfriends about to graduate and face the real world, a group of male friends who are trying to maintain their childhood friendships as adults with no emotional intelligence, a film crew working towards a deadline on their b-horror movie with no resources, a customer service agent who uses their love of wrestling to navigate everyday triggers, or married couples navigating their changing sexual fetishes, my characters are “low-brow” people in “low-brow” environments. But they explore and pursue “high-brow” topics and themes like unconditional love, shame, reproductive rights, mental health, elitism in the arts and the relationships between feminism, racism and capitalism. I ferociously mine dark subjects by revealing the humanity and comedy beneath them. I write about and for people who aren’t typically interested in attending theater or film because typically the arts “aren’t for them”.

I write for people who feel the arts just want to lecture, scold or make fun of them. Those are the people who can be surprised that a story is empathetic towards who they are, rather than blame them for problems, which inspires discussion. No minds have ever been changed by winning an argument. But minds can be changed by listening, understanding, and trying to come to an agreement. I know because I started as a conservative, catholic, antifeminist, who didn’t believe in therapy and didn’t know they were neurodivergent. Now I am a diagnosed neurodivergent feminist catholic democrat who’s been in therapy for a decade. I don’t write for people who grew up identifying with the culture they were in, I write for the people who had to grow out of their culture to see the good and the bad in it and move forward.

Typically, my work centers around women’s mental health but the play attached with this application is an exception (a cast of five men). Alt eller Ingenting (a Norwegian theater company) reached out to me to commission a long one-act play that could tour high schools and colleges addressing young men’s mental health to help with the suicide crisis that demographic is facing in their country. (The version that toured removed the cursing you’ll find in this script.) In their words, “In Norway, women have mental health and men are fine.” And while I am not male, nor am I Norwegian, I did grow up in an “other people have mental health and real problems, you’re fine” household. I grew up able to spy on all-male groups when they thought no one was around. I lived in a 75-guy frat house at one time in my life. And yes, they can be some of the scariest, threatening environments on earth, but they can also be the most loving and supportive. So I was thrilled that the company thought I was the right person to capture men’s voices on such an important topic. I wrote Christen the Place the same way I write all of my work, by asking “What is the problem? How are you told that you are the problem? What are people overlooking about you? How would you want to accept help?” And inviting them to the conversation.

The conversations that followed each performance of this particular piece were incredible. Men from ages 15 to 75 came to speak to me after the show. Many of them expressed how this show captures how hard it is to handle their feelings and the pressure they feel from society. But what’s more important to me as a writer: I saw them speaking and connecting with each other after the show. That’s my goal with any piece I’m working on. I want people to love my work, but I want my work to help people be kinder with each other more.