Work America Notes

The Work America plays. 1st play in the Series is PRNYC, based very loosely on my years in the NYC public relations business. The 2nd play, The Caregivers, is set in a Victorian hospice home on Puget Sound, in Washington State. It’s based, also very loosely, on  experiences as a personal and professional caregiver. The 3rd play in the Series is The Contractors, set in the Bitterroot Mountains of north Idaho. It’s based on experiences as a forest fire fighter and timber inventory contractor.

All three are loosely based, meaning they are not naturalistic and not meant to convey an experience I had. Most work has a span of boring dead stretches, insider minutiae, jargony nonsense, predictable slights and behaviors – not the stuff of drama  PRNYC and The Caregivers both transpire in a single setting; PRNYC in the dead of summer over a span of six hours in the midtown Manhattan PR agency, with a sweeping view of Central Park and Rockefeller Center; The Caregivers in the dead of winter, over several days, in a century-old Victorian on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound in Washington state.

The ‘ghost’ in theatre - a new ghost has suddenly appeared in The Caregivers and I don’t know how she’ll compete with the first ghost, who is a total raging witch. The Ghost makes playwrights and directors justifiably cringe – not another ghost telling Hamlet to avenge his father’s death. The ghost, it is feared, is other worldly, conjured, not in the action to further the story that’s happening now. But … what if the ghost is alive, an obstacle that complicates and advances the story, raises the stakes, etc.? Maybe the ghost is the protagonist? That’s the challenge with The Caregivers, where ghosts mingle with the living and the line between the dying and the dead is blurred.

What do all three Work America plays have in common? Work situations begat instant families, often more involved, more intense than your actual family. In a Manhattan office, a Puget Sound Victorian, on a mountain in the Bitterroots, characters are bound together by their common pursuit, the work at hand. You rise and fall together, depending on how you approach the job, achieve goals, fail, etc. Sometimes, all you have is the work to keep you together.

 Growing up in South Africa – when I first started writing plays, nobody apart from my wife wanted to have anything to do with me or my plays. They were about subjects that were taboo. They involved bringing black people and white people together on the stage, which had actually not been done in the country before. So, if I hadn’t decided to try and act and also direct, I don’t think I would be talking to you today. I don’t think any of my plays would have seen the light of day. — Athold Fugard

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