Artistic Statement

Artistic Statement

I believe, at my core, that practicing philosophy is the only path to solving any of the world’s ills. Life, as we know it, is comprised of a myriad of oppressive systems (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, sanism, and more) that it is our duty to do our best to remedy. How we go about fixing those problems requires careful consideration. I chose to undertake a lifelong study of philosophy because I was compelled by its ability to analyze not only the issues facing the world but the assumptions that we make before undertaking the work of solving them.

Philosophy’s deep consideration of theoretical frameworks fascinates me, and, as such, my theatrical praxis is to animate the discipline’s assertions and disagreements on stage in order to compel discussion. All art is political, and examining the values and norms that our work promotes is an absolute necessity if we are to be able to use art as the liberating tool that it has the potential to be. Therefore, my playwriting is just as informed by philosophers like Calvin Warren and Jasbir Puar as it is by playwrights like Alice Childress and Aleshea Harris.

Since recognizing one's own biases is necessary before one creates liberatory art, the work of philosophy has become the thematic foundation upon which I build my theatrical craft. As a playwright, my artistic practice largely involves interpreting philosophy's critiques of existing systems and adapting them into drama. By combining my theoretical and theatrical education, I make work that is able to hold a funhouse mirror up to society’s various inequitable institutions while—ideally—avoiding pedantry through a thorough understanding and deployment of craft.

My goal, then, is to use the role of the artist as society’s imagination to deconstruct and rebuild the frameworks with which people see the world. I do this by digesting a philosophical idea or system and then writing a play steeped in that worldview. I believe that doing this moves the Overton window of what is possible in the minds of the audience and opens them up to radical new potentialities. Feminist scholar Naomi Klein notably said that the ideas that are picked up in a crisis are the ones that are already lying around. My approach to theater, undergirded by philosophy, means that the egalitarian and emancipatory ideas I espouse in my work will be lying around when the time comes so that those who wish to pick them up will easily be able to.

I have begun this process very close to home. My first philosophical plays were examinations of Afrosurrealism (the idea that the daily experience of being Black in the modern world is the truest form of surrealism) and hauntology (the process of excavating the pre-colonial past for long-forgotten ways to combat present problems). These thoughts resonated with me because they are, respectively, my experience and my way of seeking answers to the modern condition. I have expanded my scope in subsequent years, however, to include—among other things—satirical attacks on libertarianism and Afropessimistic imaginings of what might happen after the end of the world. My latest work is an absurdist look at the issue of repatriation (specifically of the enslaved) on college campuses.

At its best, philosophy is a discussion that should be open to all who wish to participate, and theater, for me, is the arena in which those discussions can take place.