New American Playwrights Live by the Way of the Word

Adam Bock, Young Jean Lee and more make up a new breed of self-aware playwrights questioning what we know about language

If Bock's plays center on what we can't or won't hear, Washburn's focus on the difficulties of translation. The Internationalist concerns an American unable to interpret the words and intentions of his foreign colleagues. A lighter piece, her ghost-play Apparition, features Macbeth rendered in colloquial English and passages of extravagant fake Latin: "I made it up," a character explains. "It helps me concentrate."

Unsettling identity shifts: Jordan  Harrison's Amazons and Their Men
Carl Skutsch
Unsettling identity shifts: Jordan Harrison's Amazons and Their Men

Worryingly, we won't have the chance to concentrate on these writers this coming season: Most will not have local productions. Barring some last-minute additions to the schedule, only Lee has a guaranteed New York slot—The Shipment, at the Kitchen, which she describes as "an extremely awkward celebration of blackness." With any luck, our New York theaters will take a bigger interest in these writers in the future and give us fresh cause for celebration, awkward or not.

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