Primary Stages ESPA Drills is an annual new play development program providing extensive workshopping, a public presentation, and advocacy within the theater community for four new plays written at least in part at Primary Stages ESPA. A staged reading of Another Revolution by Jacqueline Bircher will be held on Monday, October 2 at 6:30pm.
What is your play about?
Two graduate students from opposing scientific disciplines are forced to share a lab at Columbia University in 1968. Amid interpersonal differences, a campus devolving into political chaos, and the uncertainty and turmoil of the outside world, they each discover what it’s like to be thrown into someone else’s orbit.
What inspired your play? How did you go about the research process?
Writing a period play about scientists requires a ton of research, so there were many, many inspirations for this play. My process included everything from trips to the Hayden Planetarium, to combing through Columbia’s student newspaper archives, to talking to a real-life ecologist about how she conducts her experiments. I found inspiration from some pretty unlikely places as well, but some of my favorites were:
- “How the Universe Got Its Spots” by Janna Levin and “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren: Since both of the characters in my play are scientists, there was a lot of research involved in learning about each of their scientific disciplines. These two books were invaluable to me in shaping the personalities and worldviews of Kat and Henry, and one of the many reasons I found these particular books to be the most crucial is the way they each present science as just one facet of a larger life, and drive home how scientific theories, whether they’re about plants or black holes, can creep into your life and relationships so that the world seems somehow bigger and more interconnected than you originally thought.
- Hillary Clinton’s interview with Humans of New York: When interviewed by Humans of New York, Hillary Clinton told this story of taking her law school admissions test surrounded by a group of boys who taunted her and the other women in the room, claiming that if the women were to take their spots at law school, they would be drafted to Vietnam and likely face death. This story really resonated with me, because the stakes on both sides are so high. In exploring the parallels between 1968 (when my play takes place) and now, Hillary Clinton became a very important touchstone. She was there in 1968, nearly the same age as my characters, and 50 years later, she was there again, still fighting the same battles.
- The 2017 Women’s March and the 1968 Columbia University Protests: The Women’s March earlier this year was another strong inspiration, as it ushered in a new culture of resistance. That mindset entering back into our culture became so important as I continued to explore the Columbia University protests of 1968, which provides the backdrop for my play. In addition, Columbia’s meticulous archives and exhibitions about even the not-so-flattering portions of its history were instrumental in creating the world of this play and maintaining its authenticity.
- The Detention Series at Primary Stages/ESPA: This full length play actually began its life as a ten-minute play written for Detention at ESPA! I wrote this short play for the very first Detention I ever participated in, and even though I’ve been part of several more Detentions since then, this first one sparked something that I couldn’t quite shake. While the play has certainly evolved since then, many of the most important seeds came from that original piece and I’m so excited about the amazing journey these characters have taken!
Primary Stages ESPA Drills will be held on October 2 and 3, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. All readings are free and open to the public. Visit our website for a full list of readings and to RSVP.