Date of Degree
Dramatic Literature, Criticism and Theory | Nonfiction | Playwriting
Joan Didion, Alison Bechdel, Theatre, Memoir, Suicide, Grieving
Pulitzer prize winning playwright John Patrick Shanley wrote, “Theatre is a safe place to do the unsafe things that need to be done.” For my Capstone Project, I have compiled my autobiographical poetry, prose, and performance monologues into a theatrical manuscript to be used as the basis for a play. The final Capstone Project is a manuscript of an anticipated theatrical production based on the grieving process surrounding my brother's suicide, as well as an exploration of my sexuality and the relationships I developed during the years surrounding his death.
The Capstone Project’s theatrical manuscript is also accompanied by a 20-page analysis essay describing how my autobiographical works, mainly based on sexuality and grieving, relate to famed autobiographical writers Alison Bechdel, author of the graphic memoir Fun Home, A Family Tragicomic, and Joan Didion, who wrote The Year of Magical Thinking. Bechdel’s text focuses primarily on her homosexuality and her father’s closeted sexuality, which led to his suicide. Didion’s novel is an account of her grieving the sudden death of her husband, as well as coping with the critical illness of her daughter. Both authors have had their novels turned into Broadway productions. I have shaped my writing in the same theatrical fashion. My analysis paper describes how writing, transformed into a theatrical play, is more compelling for a live audience. Intimate work based on issues that are difficult to describe tends to be better understood when experienced by actors performing truthfully under the written word of the playwright.
Oscar Wilde’s prose and Walt Whitman’s poetry also served as inspiration and guidance for my project. I was influenced to take my poetry to a theatrical level by Whitman's line from his introduction to Leaves of Grass, “A great poem is no finish to a man or a woman but rather a beginning.” My poetry served as the starting point from which my script will unfold. Wilde’s line, from The Picture of Dorian Gray, “I love acting. It is so much more real than life,” confirms that the autobiographical events I write about will be best received in a performance venue, where a heightened and theatrical reality are key to successfully telling a compelling story.
Tofil, Ryan P., "Autobiographical Poetry to Plays: Taking Memoir to a Theatrical Level" (2016). CUNY Academic Works.