Tracy Letts: Groundbreaker

By Jen Huszcza

I must confess that I don’t follow Broadway too closely anymore. I don’t live in New York, and I have other things on my mind like what the heck do I name my third character in my three character play and why are theater curtains usually red.

This year, I caught some of the Tony Awards on TV. Actually, I only saw the Best Lead Actor winners. Billy Porter’s acceptance with pink index cards became something beautiful when he talked about his mother’s unconditional love.

However, when Tracy Letts beat Tom Hanks and won best actor for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, I felt I was truly watching something groundbreaking. A playwright had won an acting award. A playwright! How great is that.

Okay, yes, I should also point out that women won both directing awards as well as best original score of a musical, and Cyndi Lauper had some awesome red hair. You’re never too old to dye your hair.

But I want to return to the Tracy Letts triumph. For years, centuries even, playwrights have written plays, and actors have acted in plays. Occasionally, an actor might get all creative and write something. Then, there are the special ones, the over-achievers, who write and act usually in a one person show. But rarely, do you see a playwright jumping in and acting in a play he/she didn’t write.

Feel free to give examples of other playwrights acting or raise the question of whether Tracy Letts was an actor first or a playwright first in the comment field below, but please keep reading.

Yes, playwrights can act. Not only can playwrights act, but playwrights can win awards. Please theatre community, embrace playwrights as actors. We have brains. We can memorize words.

 Playwrights understand story as well as how plays develop and build over the course of two hours. We understand how the scenes work. We understand process. We understand moments. When in doubt, we can fake it.

 So yes mainstream theatre, there are lots and lots of playwrights out there who can show up to rehearsal on time because they know what a pain in the ass it is when an actor is late. There are lots of playwrights who know the weight and power of the words they say. There are lots of playwrights who can walk across a stage and not freak out.

 Find us. We’re out there. We’re ready. We’re cheaper than Tom Hanks.

2 Comments

  • By Nancy Beverly, July 10, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

    And we can run countries: Vaclav Havel 🙂

  • By Robin Byrd, July 11, 2013 @ 10:57 am

    Sam Shepard, oscar nominated actor, winner: pulitzer, tony, obie… I liked him as an actor then found out he was the same Sam Shepard who wrote plays.

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