In 2016, Kate E. Ryan set out to write a new play about politics—to explore how we as individuals come to understand our own political views and how we cope with people who present countering opinions. A Good Neighbor is coming to Z Below September 26 through October 6, 2018. Kate recently sat with us to talk about the writing of A Good Neighbor.
What has your writing process been like?
This has been a process of discovery—of how to responsibly approach the topic, how to write characters with identities that differ from my own, and how to incorporate the fact that this work will be seen first by a largely liberal audience. When I started trying to write this play I quickly realized that I had no idea how to write characters that represented conservative and progressive viewpoints. The play is focused on female characters and I decided that I wanted to talk to women firsthand about their political identities and what it's been like when they've encountered someone who has a very different belief system. Z Space and I hosted small groups of women over the past couple of years to talk about these issues. I was interested in uncovering patterns of experience, what might come up in those conversations that isn't generally talked about in the media and on social media. And then Trump was elected and the conversation became even more complex. Over time, the play has become less about conservative vs. progressive politics and more about perception and perspectives.
What part of this process has scared or surprised you?
I learned that when people have a reason to stay in a relationship (ie: family) and they fundamentally disagree on basic political issues, they generally don't talk about those things. They're unable to find a way to have a healthy dialogue around it and the conversation just shuts down. I also heard many stories from women who suspected that someone close to them had voted for Trump, but who had a tacit understanding with that person not to discuss it. It's almost like the broaching of the subject would fray the relationship. I'm interested in that repression and how it relates to the ways in which we express and don't express our identities.
Now that Morgan Green has joined the project as the director, what are you both excited to explore?
Morgan and I have been having fun figuring out the visual world of this play, how sound and music are incorporated, and how to dig deep and avoid stereotypes. In rehearsal, I'm excited to talk with the actors about the social and political identities they're representing and further discover what is a true and responsible rendering as opposed to an easy choice. I'm excited to discover how the actors respond to the play emotionally and to hear their perspectives. Lastly, I decided I wanted to have an all-female cast and artistic team and Z Space has been super supportive with this. I'm excited to see how that dynamic feels in the room and how it affects everyone's level of comfort in contributing to the project.
Intrigued? Only 7 performances. Get your tickets now!