Albee, Mamet, and the Rest of Us

May 29, 2017   //   by Kate Powers   //   Director's Notebook

“I am not interested in living in a city where there isn’t a production by Samuel Beckett running.”
― Edward Albee

100 or so years ago, when I was a little baby director freshly arrived in NYC, I decided to direct Waiting for Godot. I cast the play entirely with women, because I observed that there are a myriad of ways in which women are asked to wait, expected to wait, sometimes forced by the patriarchy to pointlessly, uncertainly wait. We started to work while we, indeed, WAITED to hear back from the Beckett estate. Which was unequivocal in its refusal to let us proceed.

I’ve been thinking about the Albee estate furore, which got me thinking about the women as written in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which got me thinking about why we want to tell that story right now, which got me thinking about the stories we rarely to never tell.

Somebody will stage Virginia Woolf; somebody will go see it. That’s cool. I’m not leaping onto the never stage Albee or Mamet again bandwagon, although those who are driving it make some compelling points. Stage them if you want to. I am probably not going to turn up to see Virginia Woolf very often; I’ve seen it. A lot. I’m good. I am never turning up to see a production of Oleanna. As Melissa Hillman so succinctly put it, “Oleanna is the Sean Hannity of dramatic lit.”

Albee’s clingy estate is completely within its rights. Beckett’s, too. Playwrights often get silenced in the rehearsal room, absolutely. I just don’t want to fight that hard to do a play that the playwright doesn’t actually want me to direct.

I want to tell stories that include, that illuminate, that welcome and challenge. There are SO MANY good stories, y’all.

Let’s tell stories that build a bigger table. And then let’s sit around that table after the performance and talk together. We need to talk with one another like we never have before, and if there is a way that art can open the window to some difficult conversations that help us to hear one another across the palpable differences that are roiling this nation, that’s a beautiful thing.

“What I mean by an educated taste is someone who has the same tastes that I have.”
― Edward Albee

No kidding, Edward. But that’s not enough for the theatre, for the country, or for me.

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