All the plays WET produced last year didn't just, as I advertised in a headline, "focus" on feminism. They animated feminism. Dramatized feminism. Used feminist ideas to challenge extant feminist texts.
See, for reference, their intersectional treatment of Alice Birch's Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. Or their tremendously successful experiment with Cherdonna's Doll's House, which presented the battle between classical and avant-garde theater in a way I'd never seen before.
Judging by the plays and projects WET's picked for the upcoming 2017/18 season, which marks their 14th year as a company and their fourth year as a resident theater at 12th Avenue Arts, it looks like they're drilling down on what worked for them last year with three plays Seattle hasn't seen before, all of which touch on toxic masculinity.
In the press materials, artistic director Samie Spring Detzer offers this message on the subject: “I am tired, as many of us are, of not acknowledging the evil men do. I feel a strong need to place myself, our company, and the artists we work with squarely in the middle of this conversation. We know we are not the first, last, or the only ones to feel this way. It is no surprise, because there are no surprises left.”
But are there really no surprises left? Sure, the United States of America elected a president who boasted about sexually assaulting women. And I guess it's true that there are 13 white, male senators having lunch somewhere and deciding whether or not rape is a goddamn pre-existing condition. And, of course, white male terrorists are shooting up Planned Parenthoods, stabbing people on trains, abusing their partners, and shooting their girlfriends for breaking up with them. But Trump still has yet to offer a blanket pardon of all men... you know what? I'm just going to stop right there so no one gets any ideas.
Before I get to the plays, I'm pleased to reaffirm WET's commitment to the Six Pack Series, my favorite reading series / variety show in town. As the name implies, six storytellers of all kinds perform raw and/or perfectly cooked pieces for a six-pack of a beverage of their choice. Writers get risky, performers get competitive, and the whole thing feels like one, big, weepy and funny family thing, whether you're a regular or a first-time audience member.
Okay, now, to the plays:
Teh Internet is Serious Business
September 15 - October 2, 2017
By Tim Price
Directed by Wayne Rawley
Tim Price—a young Welsh playwright who has been making a name for himself by writing plays about protest movements—is responsible for writing this one about the rise of Anonymous, the group of hackers who are single-handedly trying to maintain the cultural relevancy of Guy Fawkes masks, and who, for now, seem to wield lots of headless shadow power on the internet.
In the play, two British teens start hacking for the lulz. Then they start hacking in order to rid the world of Scientology. Watching them walk the path from "hahahaha, we're having fun" to "we are the white knighted saviors of the internet world" (no offense, love you guys) might tell us something about the stories men tell themselves.
Straight White Men
January 12 - 29, 2018
By Young Jean Lee
Directed by Sara Porkalob
The rightfully celebrated Young Jean Lee returns to Seattle with this new play about an old identity that's only beginning to be recognized as such: straight white maleness. As a result of women and people of color speaking up and speaking loudly about whiteness and maleness as an identity, "for the first time in history, straight white men are experiencing some of what everybody else has been experiencing all along, and unsurprisingly, they really don't like it," Lee says in that interview supra.
In a review of Lee's Untitled Feminist Show, which ran at On the Boards a few years ago, my former colleague Brendan Kiley says Lee demonstrates a talent for grabbing cliches, wrestling them into submission, then making them tell jokes. Seems like she's got plenty of opportunity to do that here. Very excited to see this play in the very capable hands of Sara Porkalob, who co-produced Intiman's summer festival this year and who is on a tear with her Dragon Lady franchise and the 14 other projects she's juggling at any given time.
April 27 - May 14, 2018
By Jennifer Haley
Directed by Bobbin Ramsey
What if there were a virtual world where men could live out their most fucked up, rapacious fantasies? Would that be a good thing? A way, perhaps, to mitigate or pacify violent male behavior? Or would that be a place the government should destroy because it could only really serve as refinery for that violent male behavior? Those are some of the questions playwright Jennifer Haley asks in The Nether.
Haley's known for incorporating into her writing the tricks of Hollywood genre flicks, and this one's billed as a thriller. We'll see if the characters and dialogue suffer as a result of that choice, as Kiley said they did when WET produced Haley's Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom back in 2009.
By Lucy Thurber
Directed by Samie Spring Detzer
In addition to their main season shows, WET’s partnering with the University of Washington to stage Lucy Thurber’s Monstrosity at the Glenn Hughes Penthouse Theater. The play is an anti-heroic fantasy thriller thing about a group of singing teenage Nazis. Sounds right up WET's alley. I'm pumped. You should be pumped. We're all getting pumped. But not in any testosterone-fueled, man-fantasy (mantasy?) kinda way.