Creating by Listening

Many years ago, I was commissioned to write a play about secondhand smoke. Being completely ignorant of the subject and starting to think that it was an impossible topic for a play, I decided to interview a pulmonologist friend. He was so excited, knowledgeable and entertaining that I used his words and images to finish a first draft of “Lungman and Windpipe’s Excellent Adventure” within a week.

This experience of creating a play by listening to other people served me in great stead with my recent commission to write La Sirène for California Revels. I spent hours listening to the long-time Musical Director and Choreographer describe the outline they had created, the new Artistic Director talking about the character of La Sirène, an artist from Dominica telling me about Caribbean art and music and an expert on Gullah culture about the history of the Sea Islands off the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina.

Listening to other voices, mainly Black voices, and writing from their words and ideas allowed me to find a place in the Revel’s diverse artistic team. The trust we built meant that I could write something off base, or even offensive, and know that my colleagues would help me find a better word or a better scene. And I listened to them.

When you go see La Sirène, and please do go see it, notice how many voices are in the show, literally and figuratively. Listen to the words and the rhythms, listen for dissonance and listen for harmony.

Lungman & Windpipe

La Sirene at California Revels