by Mike Lew
Playwright, Bike America
Bike America is a comedy about a cross-country bike trip, staged on stationary bikes. Or maybe even real bikes. Or maybe just handlebars that the actors carry around to look like real bikes. We haven’t really figured that out yet. Anyhow, this bike trip starts in Boston and ends in Santa Barbara, with stops in iconic American towns like Newport, New York City, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Memphis, El Paso, and Flagstaff.
Bike America won the Kendeda Grad Playwriting Competition and will be having its world premiere at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta in February 2013. It’s had workshops at the Kennedy Center (NNPN MFA Playwrights’ Workshop) and at Juilliard, and its latest ride will be with the Playwrights Foundation. I am overjoyed for this chance to keep working on the play, because it’s still very much in process.
This play started at the nexus of several impulses. I wanted to use biking to create a sense of motion within static space. I wanted to take the vast scope of a cross-country road trip – which is such a time-honored film staple – and cram it all onto one tiny stage. I also wanted to challenge the actors with a play that offers not only an emotional journey but also a physical one.
But mostly what I wanted to do was take the temperature of the country, and look at generational differences between Millennials and X-ers and Boomers. I’m curious about what unites us as Americans versus what sets us apart, geographically and generationally. The lead character, Penny, is this lost and wandering Millennial who’s trying to find herself on this trip. She’s trying to find a place that feels like a home. But then again she’s also bringing in all her preconceptions of these towns before she gets the chance to see what it’d be like to live there. Like we all kind of do on vacation.
Right now the play is in a transitionary period where I’m trying to weigh all the initial impulses that went into the play as I distill the script down to the story that I most want to tell. It’s an exciting, tricky, confusing time. This play is a suitcase, my flight’s leaving soon, and I want to be sure that all the things that I’ve crammed in there fit, fit together, and that I haven’t left anything out. Plus it’s a comedy, so I’m working on timing out the rhythms and battle-testing the jokes.
If you happen to get to see the readings in SF and at Stanford, please know that I’m truly grateful for this chance to keep refining the script with you as I pedal my way to Atlanta.
For dates and times to Bike America's Rough Reading October 1st and 2nd, click here