blackbirdonline journalSpring 2010  Vol. 9  No. 1

Playwright’s Introduction to This World We Know

spacer Firehouse Theatre Project

The person who should be writing this introduction is my father, but he hasn’t read my play. I haven’t let him. That’s because it’s based on a story he told me once—one of the few about his childhood—where he discovered proof of what he had always suspected, that indeed he was the least favorite child.

You see, in his house—blue-collar, Irish Catholic, Kesslers on the counter—he was nearly crushed under the weight of the pedestal built for his sister. She could do no wrong. Except one day when she did. I still do not know what it was, but according to his story, it was something he would have caught hell for, but she didn’t. When he complained about the injustice, their father took her into the bedroom for a beating. My father—maybe eight, maybe nine—must have stood outside in the hall, listening with both delight and dread at justice being served. But when he peeked through the keyhole, he saw his father whipping the bed with his belt, and his sister on the other side of the room, crying out as if in pain.

They both had smiles on their faces.

That moment, of witnessing his parent and his sibling in collusion with one another—in collusion against him, I can’t imagine.

Except, I did. And that’s what started me writing This World We Know.

But this is not a play about abuse, or victimhood, or revenge. And it’s certainly not about right and wrong, innocence and guilt, parents and children. Instead, it’s about that moment we learn life’s hardest lesson: that once you know something, you can’t unknow it.

My father chose never to speak to his sister again. My play simply imagines that he does. Why? Because seventy years after that event, my father is still that wronged little boy. And I want him to know that there is a world beyond that keyhole and that, as the thirteenth century poet Rumi says, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

For me, as a playwright, that field is the stage.

Blackbird’s Notes
This World We Know comes to Blackbird via the Richmond-based Firehouse Theatre Project’s Festival of New American Plays, where it was named the best play of the 2013 competition. From the Firehouse Theatre website: “In keeping with the Firehouse Theatre’s mission of promoting new work by American artists, the Festival of New American Plays began in 2002 as a way to encourage and incubate new plays by established and emerging playwrights in the United States. It has become a grassroots event with substantial involvement from the community, as hundreds of scripts submitted to the Playwriting Contest from all over the country are read by volunteer readers from the Greater-Richmond area. Each script is read twice (more if it needs a tiebreaker), and scripts with ‘two thumbs up’ are passed on for further evaluation to an expert panel of judges, who then pick two finalists for a four-night Festival ‘showdown.’ Members of the festival audience who have seen staged readings of both finalists’ work cast a vote for their favorite play, and the winner of the festival is chosen by the public. Festival winners receive cash prizes.”

This World We Know will receive its world premiere run from February 5 to March 7, 2015 as a part of the Firehouse’s 2014–15 regular season.  bug

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