Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Looking for a Better Play

By Dominic Orlando

Reparations Rough Reading Oct. 22 & 23
In preparation for the next Rough Reading, which features Reparations by Dominic Orlando, we asked him to speak about his play, it's history, and what it all means.  

This play began when I was participating in a theatre festival a few years ago (not in California).  I was watching one of the other plays-- it was a disfunctional family drama, fairly well-written--for the first third of the piece we heard a lot about the crazy sister.  She was unbalanced, she was dangerous--it was a real build-up.  But when she finally appeared, the character seemed a little muted and hemmed in.  Now, when I say this character then spoke to me I don't mean I had some kind of psychotic break and heard her voice aloud, but as close to a psychotic break as you can have without it actually happening, this character of the sister spoke to me, and basically asked if I could write a play for her in which she didn't have to feel trapped by the writer's fears and agenda.  Where she could just be her screwed up and frightening self.  She had things to say and she wanted me to provide a forum in which she could say them freely.

So that was the germ of the piece.  I have an ex-girlfriend from NYC, she and her siblings had this trust fund from their grandfather, but somehow their father got his hands on it, and manipulated them and the money in a way that seemed very creepy to me at the time (though she didn't see it that way).  That stuck with me and somehow in that strange way these things happen added itself to the germ of this unbalanced character who was looking for a better play. So slowly the little snowball began to gather mass in my brain. 

I can't really say how slavery reparations entered into it--again, it's a mysterious process.  I've been interested in the issue for some time, I think partially because I'm the youngest of three brothers and tend to (perhaps because of that) understand that sometimes there is no grey area and yes, my older brother really did just punch me in the face because he's bigger and he could, that's just the way power works sometimes.  So in the case of slavery reparations there's a clear issue of justice, but on the other hand, what amount of money is enough, and where is the money going to come from, and can we really punish people who are descendants of an evil structure but who are not evil themselves and probably would have rejected or even fought against that structure given the choice (though, sadly, that's not true of everyone). 

On one level it's a disconnect and that's part of the play, part of the main character (called AMY FAIRFIELD).  Her situation doesn't really gibe with slavery reparations, but that's how she sees it, and she's kind of insisting on it when she approaches this prominent civil rights lawyer and academic.  We don't even see that character because he rejects her proposal out of hand, but one of his associates (KEVIN) does show interest in the case, though we perhaps never know whether this is out of sympathy for Amy or because there's a large amount of money involved. 

So there's a chance it doesn't work, is, I guess, what I'm saying but, you have to follow the way these things gather in your brain and hope your unconscious knows what it's doing.  What I'm hoping to look at is this idea of Justice, not in the sense of "closure" or "moving on" or any of those terms we throw around, but wanting to say: "no, no, I want some fucking vengeance, I want these people to PAY for what happened to me, I don't want diplomacy I want WAR."  So in that sense Amy is like the Furies, she's just this howling avenger, and she wants to drag all of American History with her.


To find out how to see the Reparations Rough Reading, click here

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