Staging Solutions to a National Debate

April 23, 2013

Caridad Svich
Caridad Svich
This content is sourced from The Wall Street Journal.

In the aftermath of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., playwright Caridad Svich put out a call to theater artists to submit short plays related to the intensifying debate over gun control. The instructions were rather demanding—not only did the pieces have to be between three and seven minutes long, but they had to be completed and submitted in less than 10 days. "This all happened fairly fast," she said.

Within two weeks she'd received 100 blind submissions, and commissioned—"In a sense," she said, "There's no money"—a handful of others, including works by Neil LaBute (Reasons to Be Pretty) and Chiori Miyagawa (Red Again/Antigone Project).

"Then," she said, "it was all about reading, reading, reading." Next Monday, a cast of 13, including Greg Keller and Kristen Connolly, will read 12 of the works she selected at New Dramatists headquarters on West 44th Street.

Ms. Svich, who won a 2012 Obie Award for Lifetime Achievement, is known for her work as a translator, playwright, editor and songwriter. We asked her what she thought theater, as opposed to journalism and other public forms of debate, could accomplish.

"That's a question I ask myself all of the time, regardless of the gun-control debate—what can theater do?" she said. "But I believe very much in necessary or urgent theater, that it can create a shared, vulnerable space for reflection, a memorial space, and one that looks at the issues from many sides."

--Lizzie Simon

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