This year’s drama season launches with the seventh annual Playwrights Festival (September 4-7)—performances by the student actors of works-in-process by current playwriting fellows. On the docket are Michael Yates Crowley’s The Tourists, which is directed by Hal Brooks; Emily Bohannon’s Noel Gallagher’s Guitar, directed by Sam Buntrock; and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s War, directed by Leisl Tommy. Here are excerpts from the three. (Please note that the Playwrights Festival is not open to the public.)
A group of Americans are trapped on a nameless island in the Mediterranean after a ferry strike. Souvenir shops, oversexed backpackers, too much wine and too many museums abound as a one-eyed talking dog regales the tourists with philosophical and raunchy stories of falling in love. This darkly comic tale is a send-up to the standard rituals of Americans on vacation.
Dog: I was in love with a sheepdog bitch from the mainland. Don’t laugh. She was only here for a weekend. They never let her off the leash. From the first second I saw her, squatting there to piss by the gate, I felt—how can I explain—I felt that I was being given a gift of enormous value. Religious value. But as a dog, I was never taught to pray, or at least I could expect nothing from your god. The only way I could show my gratitude was to watch her, to watch her with infinite attention, so I did this. I watched with profound attention every moment of her existence, every gesture, I watched. Attention is the rarest form of love, I believe. To pay attention to another being in this way, fully, without reservation—I did not know I was capable of this. I loved that sheepdog bitch every moment of the day, with every sense attuned. I refused to let myself blink. I would have considered it a failing, a lapse in attention; it would have ruined the offering of my love. So. I did not blink for two of your days. You can see where this is going. She left with her owner; they zippered her into a little bag. My right eye became infected, and had to be removed. The pain was … revelatory. What I’m trying to tell you is that no sheepdog bitch is worth an eye.
Noel Gallagher’s Guitar
When the lead singer of the Manchester Knights inherits a legendary guitar from a pawn shop owner-turned-music manager, he rises from obscurity to glory to become the King of British pop. However, the pressures of success put the young singer at a crossroads as he struggles to maintain his most important relationships.
Gwen: Joanne. Paige. Eleanor. Desiree.
Des: They’re just fans.
Gwen: As if I’m anything more.
Des: You’re not just a fan.
Gwen: But I am! I’m a quivering, screaming, swooning, melting, obsessive, explosive fan. He used to call me muse. Before. At every show, he’d kiss my ring and wear it on a chain round his neck. Now it’s all “love” and “sweetie darling.” The ring stays on my finger, because he says it’s “too precious to lose.” What about me? Am I not so easily lost?
Des: If his life’s a glass of water, everything else—the gigs, the girls, the swords—they all fill the glass. And you’re a drop in the top.
Gwen: You think I’m an idiot.
Des: No. I think that for another man, you’d fill the glass.
Trapped in an empty world of talking apes, supertitles, and a suspiciously quiet audience, comatose Roberta is lost and having trouble remembering how she got here or how to get home. Meanwhile, her children and their spouses are left to deal with the house guests she neglected to mention—two very tired, “sort of black” Germans who claim to be long-lost family.
(On a bench, outside the hospital. Tobias, one of the Germans, is there, upset. The Nurse comforts him.)
Tobias: And so excuse my anger because I don’t understand this happening? Why can nothing in my life ever go the way it is supposed to, for once? I feel like God is trying to destroy me.
It is not even normal things that come up in your life—It is things like this—these random things —This randomness–I–I am sorry—I do not know the word in Eng… (beat) Usually I have my wife—Mathilda. Mathilda is better with her now that she is so sick, because Mathilda, she works with a lot of elderly people, but for me it is hard. It gets very frustrating because I feel like I am dealing with a child—and this person is not my mother—this is not the person I have always known—and sometimes I have to leave. I feel, if I don’t leave, I will go crazy, that I will do something—bad.
Nurse: I understand, you are frustrated but you can’t leave her with strangers. We don’t know that about your mother.