Talking Animals

 

When I was a kid, I watched Saturday morning cartoons. Every Saturday, the coyote chased the road runner, and every Saturday, the coyote failed. I knew the coyote was destined to fail and fail again and God was truly dead.

I also found it frustrating that neither the road runner nor the coyote spoke. The coyote could only express his frustration with the aid of a sign before plunging off the edge of a cliff yet again.

Flash forward a bit. The touring company of Cats came to my Midwestern City, and it was a big deal. Ahhh Cats. Yes, in the eighties, people paid money to see dancer/singers in spandex and cat makeup sing light pop songs to lyrics by T.S. Eliot. The magic of theatre.

Flash forward to college. I reread Where the Wild Things Are in between doses of Beckett and Ibsen.

Flash forward to the new millennium. I write plays with talking animals in them. Not all my plays have talking animals. Not all my talking animals are the same. My intention is to not write plays for children or little skits.

In my plays, things get wild pretty easily, so it’s only natural that the animals talk. I had one animal, a vulture, who didn’t talk in the beginning, but she certainly had a lot to say by the end. Sometimes the human characters listen to the animals. Sometimes they don’t.  

When I write the animals, I know that a human actor will play it. However, let me be clear. I’m not looking for the human in the animal. I’m looking for the animal in the human.

Still, actors like to know that they will come through the process with some dignity. If they can’t have their dignity, they at least want to look good, so my animals are always extremely good looking.

I don’t write the animals to be cute. There’s something that the animals can say about humans, about our relationships to the world around us. What does it take to survive? What are we to ourselves? Where can we find our own wildness?

Where are the wild things? All around us and deep inside each of us.

1 Comment

  • By Robin Byrd, November 24, 2010 @ 11:35 am

    Very intriguing, Jen. What an awesome way to approach a story… I’d like to see or read one of your animal pieces. I’ve never written animal characters though I do write animal mannerisms/symbolism into my people/stories sometimes.

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