“I learned it by watching you!” a 1980s anti-drug PSA once accused.
Why artists make the work they do is an existential query no amount of bloviation could ever fully answer — no tolerable amount of blovation, at any rate. But recalling who inspired them to devote their lives to the often lonely, financially uncertain and emotionally draining task of trying to create something personal and yet universal; immediate and yet enduring, requires considerably less contemplation. In this series, we ask the people who made and/or are consuming the plays featured in the 2013 Humana Festival to name the one person most directly responsible for inspiring their love of theater.
Kwame Kwei-Arah, artistic director of Baltimore’s Center Stage and the author of Seize the Day and other plays, named August Wilson. His relationship with Wilson’s plays began with a production of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.
Dan LeFranc, whose plays include 60 Miles to Silver Lake and The Big Meal, credited the playwright Naomi Iizuka, his instructor in his final year as an undergrad at U.C. Santa Barbara, with giving him the confidence to mine his own life experiences for material.
“I wrote these really bad Beckett ripoffs, because I thought as long as something was taking place in a void with characters speaking nonsense, that seemed like important theater,” Le Franc says. “But Naomi taught me and unlocked for me the power of my own stories and my own voice.”
The Delling Shore playwright Sam Marks chose several big-league dramatists — Caryl Churchill, Paula Vogel, David Mamet, Anton Chekov — as having guided his choice of profession, but credited his parents, both actors, first. “Probably I’m working out issues with my family by even being in the same field as they are,” Marks said.
Meredith McDonough, who directed The Delling Shore as well as two of the Ten-Minute Plays in this year’s festival, a second-grade production of Aesop’s Fables. “I’ve never had a job not in the theater,” McDonoaugh beams. Meredith McDonoaugh’s Second Grade Teacher: You know who you are.