As all of us in the performing arts adjust to a new era, Concord Theatricals reached out to some of our authors for their personal reflections on Art in a Time of Crisis. (For other pieces in this series, click here.)
Award-winning playwright Lisa Kron, whose work includes Fun Home, Well, 2.5 Minute Ride, and The Ver**zon Play, responded with this candid, thoughtful and powerful essay.
All the stages are empty. We are officially “non-essential.” The abrupt shutdown of every production has caused our industry’s infrastructure: producing institutions, unions, guilds, to go into shock as the blood flow of ticket sales, royalties, dues and salaries has been severed. The damage is going to be severe. What are we, whose entire lives are built around the art and craft of theater, to do? What can we push for? What can we even dream of? We are worse than non-essential. We are life-threatening.
I am experiencing this time as less of an interruption than a continuation of the creative suspension I have been struggling with since the 2016 election — the point when I found my sense of context, the grounding of assumptions from which I write, suddenly insufficient. The events of these past months confirm and intensify that assessment. I am trying to take George Saunders’ advice to just pay close attention to everything around me with an open heart. Maybe it will lead me to more work. I don’t know.
And yet, I know for absolute certain that when it is safe to do so, people will gather again in theaters, and that plays will be written. Because while artists may falter and institutions may fall, theater’s essential mode of transformation will give us a way to gather our losses into collective experience and imbue them with meaning. I will be hungry to see theater by and for all of us: the cashiers, the Lyft drivers, the delivery people, the health care workers, the transit workers, the unmoored athletes, actors, and hotel maids, the children studying math in family bathrooms, the people riding this out alone, the stunned grieving. When the day comes and we can be with each other again, we will gather in theaters and weave ourselves, together, into the altered world.
Lisa Kron is a writer and performer whose work has been widely produced in New York, regionally, and internationally. Her plays include Well, 2.5 Minute Ride, and The Ver**zon Play. She wrote the book and lyrics for the musical Fun Home (with music by composer Jeanine Tesori), winner of five 2015 Tony Awards including Best Musical. Lisa and Jeanine were the first all-woman team to ever receive a Tony for Best Score.
As a founding member of the Five Lesbian Brothers, Lisa co-created several plays, including Brave Smiles… another lesbian tragedy, Brides of the Moon, Oedipus at Palm Springs, The Secretaries and Voyage to Lesbos. Lisa currently serves as Secretary of the Dramatists Guild Council and on the boards of the McDowell Colony and the Lilly Awards.