With the seemingly infinite amount of free-time summer allots us, it may be tempting to pursue that Netflix binge you’ve been putting off throughout the semester. But rather than staying on the couch this summer, get your hands on some new plays, as they provide a unique social critique that other forms of media can’t.
Dr. John Patrick Bray is a professor in the Department of Theatre and Film Studies specializing in Dramatic Writing, and he himself is a published and prominent playwright in off-off-Broadway. With a knack for inspiring new works through the Athens Playwrights’ Workshop, here’s what he had to say on students watching more plays:
“While there is certainly a sense of timelessness with plays from yesteryear, new plays speak to our present moment. New plays offer a reflection of who we are and inspire dialogue vis-a-vis how we can continue to improve ourselves and our world.”
Contemporary works provide a breathing, evolving organism that look our present in the face and offer a comprehensive if not surprising reflection we may not have seen before based on our own backgrounds. New plays provide an examination of our current selves and critiques them subtly through the beauty of art.
Dr. Bray continued. “…[N]ew works fill a need: they can demonstrate to an audience participant that they are not alone, can engage a community, can offer insight into a particular worldview, and surprise (particularly) college age audiences who may not be familiar with collaborative live art.”
The collaborative part of theater is unique to the art form. While binging Netflix may be a fun way to pass the afternoon, you are not physically enmeshed in the story like you are in theater. And contemporary plays provide evermore unique perspectives on narratives we don’t see in popular media.
For example, BFEby Julia Cho is one of the contemporary works in the upcoming season that Dr. Bray is excited about. It’s a story about Panny, 14, and her life as a young Korean-American girl in Arizona. “It's a poignant, and at times chilling and heart-breaking, study of teenage isolation and a desire to be deemed beautiful as dictated by mass culture,” Dr. Bray said.
The beauty of theater comes from the fact that it destroys isolation in storytelling. Unlike movies, TV shows, and novels you are in the moment with the actors as the story unfolds. You are an active participant in the world on the stage. You will be present with Panny just like you will be present in your life. No part of anyone’s story is isolated, and the media you consume should edify that.
What better place to access new works than at UGA. With Main Library constantly adding new plays in print, your hands can never be empty of social education. And with the Department of Theatre and Film Studies and student organization showcasing new works, the opportunities to examine other people’s perspectives and stories are robust and plentiful. For the sake of better understanding the world we live in and for opening up our minds to new experiences, students should pursue contemporary plays.