Mar 20, 2009
notes about the play
I was asked to write playwright notes for Pretty Theft. Here they are-- In 2004, I took a class with Chuck Mee at the Flea. He was writing what would become Hotel Cassiopeia about the life of artist Joseph Cornell. Cornell is probably most famous for his boxes—dioramas created from collages of found objects. He lived his whole life in the house he grew up in and probably died a virgin. He also had many friendships with ballerinas and sometimes gave his art to them as gifts. In Chuck Mee’s class we were supposed to all write our own play about Joseph Cornell and in the spirit of Mee, we were all supposed to steal from one another. Every scene everyone brought in was on the table to potentially become part of our own pieces. I did not end up writing a play about Joseph Cornell but instead wrote a play about an autistic guy named Joe who is obsessed with ballerinas and likes to collect things in a box. Likewise, I took my character of the Waitress from a café scene someone brought in where a character said “If you live in New York long enough you will eventually fall in love with a waitress” and I took my main character Allegra from an interview someone brought in of the dancer Allegra Kent. Although I didn’t end up stealing scenes or dialogue, I instead wrote a play about stealing. I wanted to figure out why I was so opposed to taking lines from people’s scenes when that was what we were supposed to do. Ingrained in me still was the idea of theft as an unallowable taboo. So I wrote about it. I was interested in showing different versions of theft—the serious and less serious, emotional theft and physical theft and what theft means in America and to us as individuals. Why do some people compulsively steal? When something vital is taken from us, how does it affect us? That was the initial impulse to write this play. I also looked at Chuck Mee’s theatricality and tried to make my version of a Chuck Mee play. In Pretty Theft, ballerinas dance between scenes and wrenches fall from the ceiling. And above all, I wanted to make something beautiful, maybe terrible, hopefully funny but also emotionally resonant.