Pearl Cleage in Rehearsal for her newest play

The hardest question a playwright ever has to answer is: What’s your play about?

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The hardest question a playwright ever has to answer is: What’s your play about?

We always have an answer, but it almost never satisfies us. We try to distill plot, character, tone and the mysterious beauty of the language itself into a few fast lines that will make our listeners want to get to know these characters a little better. See how the story turns out. It is our hope that they will head for the box office as the playwright heads back into rehearsal thinking “Is that really what it’s about?”

And then one day in rehearsal, an actor will say a line and you hear it as if for the first time. And in the exchange that follows when the other actor responds, you hear that as if for the very first time, too, and at last you know what the play is about. 

And you want to turn to your director and ask her if she knew all along, but in order to adhere to the rules that theatrical collaboration requires, it’s dangerously bad form for the playwright to ever express less than a full and complete knowledge and understanding of every word she’s ever written, so you hold that moment close to your heart because you finally know what the play is about.

It’s about women. Men, too, although none of them appear on the stage this time. It’s about friendship and truth and how it feels to be an artist forever and ever amen. It’s about love, and longing and lying and looking for a sign that the road you’re on is the right one. 

It’s about getting older and wondering how that happened so fast and being young enough to be impatient for it to please move a little faster. 

It’s about how to find a way to communicate across all those lines or between them or even because of them…

So, when Pete, who is only 25, says, “I don’t want anybody to love me in spite of. I want somebody to love me because of,” it’s kind of a love story.

And when Betty who is 65 says: “Our job used to be adding to the record. Now our job is to make sure they tell the story straight,” it’s kind of a passing the torch story. 

But when Anna, also 65, says: “I’m not giving anybody anything,” it becomes a cross generational if you bad enough, come and take it, kind of story.

And when Kate, who is 45, says: “I don’t think you realize how many of us were transformed by that piece,” it’s a story about what we gave and what we got in return.

So, when they ask you what the play is about, tell them we’ve got four amazing women in a beautiful midtown hotel suite watching the rain outside their window and talking about their lives, and by extension our lives, our hopes, our Atlanta dreams, deeply rooted in this place where we live our stories every day.

Tell them we’ve got a mysterious woman in a mink coat and a cherry red Cadillac. Tell them we’ve got cultural revolutions and personal revelations and a beautiful rainbow because the playwright still believes in magic.

Tell them we’ve got a happy ending with their name on it. 

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