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By: PVMP Fellow Emma O.
Last weekend I went on a mini road trip to meet with my mentor, Marcus Gardley, and see two of his plays. My dad and I drove to Brooklyn on Friday and I had dinner with Marcus. We talked about my play and playwriting in general. He gave me the best piece of writing advice I have received so far in my life. He told me that instead of adding more and more different ideas to my play to make it complicated and give it depth, I should keep telling the same story over and over and it will get deeper. It was exactly what I needed to hear and was extremely helpful in looking at the play I’m working on now, which had way too much going on masking the point I was trying to make. Meeting with Marcus was instrumental in my editing process and I’m so grateful for having had the opportunity to talk to him at this point in my revisions.
After dinner, I went to see Marcus’s play The Box: A Black Comedy. It was intense but also humorous. It explored the current problems with prisons and mass incarceration in the US and opened my eyes wider to the issue by placing it in a play that was incredibly intimate with the audience.
The next morning I went to New Haven, Connecticut to see another of Marcus’s plays, The House that Will Not Stand. It was definitely my favorite of the three of his plays I had seen. It was also humorous, and very powerful. It was set in New Orleans in the 1830s. I believe I can speak for the majority of the audience when I say that Marcus opened a portal to a time, place, and events I had never known about before. The House also featured several strong female characters and the cast had only one man, who was not onstage for very long. As someone who strives to write strong female characters and also to be one, Marcus’s play was extremely inspirational.
The way Marcus wove mythology and supernatural elements into both plays was intriguing and new. The current play I am writing involves some fantasy, which I always worried would not be taken seriously. I am indebted to Marcus for showing me that fantasy can indeed be taken seriously and add to the depth of a play rather than just being another cliché. His mastery of poetry and humor were present in both his plays, as were his portrayal of family, history, and his contributions to important conversations that need to be had in our society. Marcus’s explorations of history and music in his plays have made me consider such aspects in my own writing. Marcus and his work continue to inspire and motivate me. It was so wonderful to see more of his shows and to talk to him!
The Paula Vogel Mentors Project is made possible by the generous support of:
The Independence Foundation New Theatre Works Initiative, the Nessa Forman and Family Fund at The Philadelphia Foundation; and Honorary Producers Virginia & Harvey Kimmel, and Linda & David Glickstein; and in partnership with the Ira Brind Theatre School at University of the Arts