Texas Plays in British Places
Utility is a deeply Texan play. In fact, the last show I worked on in England was also a deeply Texan play. These scripts seem to appeal to the British, but not, as I feared, because their Southern settings are curiosities, but because the Brits have been able to find common threads and relatable stories. After all, I've always believed that meticulously detailing the world of a play makes it somehow more accessible, even to an audience of outsiders. Specificity allows for universality.
In America, my last two productions were set in the South: suburban Texas and rural Virginia. Both occasionally inspired comments like "Why did she set the play in rural Virginia if it doesn't have to be?" or "Did she choose a red state drawl to bait the liberal elites who will see the show?" The answers to these questions, of course, are always rooted in the unimaginative fact that these are the places where my family still lives and these are the places where I return to negotiate my own worldview.
But beyond this easy answer, these questions point to a larger issue: Why, especially in New York, do we assume plays set in the South must either speak for the South or serve as a foil for the rest of America?
Perhaps London is so removed from these places, and its audiences have less of the stereotypes and baggage about the South, that Southern accents and small-town details can exist on their own terms. It's my experience that the British view America with more of a broad stroke anyway, and the chasm between Texas and New York, say, doesn't loom as large.
Just some odds and ends, from time to time