Things Past

April 4, 2016 - Picnic Time

Five years ago, Anne Washburn headed to a Texas Hill Country for a ten-day wordless playwriting shelter during a refabbed ranch, where she cranked out a initial breeze of “Antlia Pneumatica,” now adult during Playwrights Horizons. The ranch’s owners, “big Beckett fans,” insisted that a writers stop for dinner, on their expostulate down, during a roadside corner called Rudy’s. “It seemed like a good intro,” Washburn removed a other afternoon, during Morgan’s Barbecue, in Prospect Heights. “You take a garland of mostly New York playwrights and we dump them into Texas, that many of them were arrange of distressed about. But a initial thing is barbecue, and they’re kind of, like, Ooh, since grill creates people feel safe.”

Washburn, who is from Berkeley and now lives in Brooklyn, gestured around a grill (Mason jars, mounted longhorn skull), and noted, “It was this arrange of setup, where we smush a beef in a bread.”

She had left for a shelter with no devise for what she’d write; a lot of comfort food done it in. “Antlia Pneumatica” is about a organisation of aged friends, their ties stretched skinny by time and space, who reunite during a Texas plantation for a wake of one of a gang. Center entertainment is a kitchen island, around that a expel congregates, scheming a apportion of dishes—mostly pies, with synthetic fruit and genuine Jiffy crusts—that one impression describes as “obscene” and “grotesque.” As another impression puts it, “Funeral spells food.” Washburn, who is maybe best famous for “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play” (survivors of an baleful eventuality pass a time by perplexing to refurbish “Simpsons” episodes), has referred to “Antlia” as her “ ‘Big Chill’ play.”

At Morgan’s, she systematic potato salad, collard greens, and sludgy pinto beans, and afterwards wandered out to a path cruise table. Trucks roared past on Flatbush Avenue, and Washburn, who is pale, with wispy hair and tortoiseshell glasses, dismayed when they honked. She pronounced that a playwright Erik Ehn, who led a Texas retreat, final “a sincerely stout form of silence,” even during meals. “It’s not usually that we don’t speak. You don’t write notes, we don’t gesticulate during any other, we don’t quite make eye contact. You don’t, like, whine expressively.”

As a result, in further to snacks “Antlia” is full of sound. The play starts with a clinking of ice cubes, a sloshing of lemonade, a toll phone. Entire conversations between members of a fabricated celebration are piped in over a empty stage. At a certain point, there’s a whoosh of wind, and pecans chit-chat onto a entertainment building (made from antique Texas heart-pine wood). “Yeah, a Pecan Drop,” Washburn said, wearily. “At first, each opening a Pecan Drop would be a puzzling thing—how many would go? How many wouldn’t go?”

A summons blared, and Washburn’s palm flew to her chest—“Oh, God!” She parsed a line of her grandfather’s, about how people used to speak about “listening” to a play, rather than “seeing” one. “It always stranded with me,” she said. “In film, we see it. In theatre, a usually approach we see something detached from what’s right in front of you—and no play is ever about usually what’s right in front of you—is that someone says a difference and then we see it.”

After college (Reed), Washburn returned to a Bay Area, and worked temp jobs. She was doubtful of “playwright” as a career, “but we was somehow certain that a thing to do was write radio plays and record them and send them to a BBC,” she said, with a laugh. So she wrote 3 radio plays about temping. She continued, “In a first, we consider a temp might get run over by a car?” The second, “When a Tanks Break,” was formed on an version that Washburn listened about a temp in Port Richmond, who got sealed out of an bureau building, in a chemical cloud. “He had been banging on a side doorway for a duration of time, kind of in a cloud, before people let him in,” she said. “He’d been wearing a ditch cloak with a backpack, as we do as a temp. And a subsequent day a partial of a coupler a trek lonesome was fine, though a rest arrange of dissolved.” She couldn’t remember partial 3 of a trilogy.

One impression in “Antlia” refers to those collected as “a reassembled memory of a community.” For an early play, “Apparition”—ghost stories, mostly told in a dark—Washburn done adult feign Latin, mimicking sounds semi-recalled from high school. When an singer dug adult a Latin dictionary, however, she found that some of it was real. “There were things like ‘cries,’ ‘whispers,’ ‘slaughterhouse,’ ” Washburn said. She incited down dessert (even Morgan’s scotch pecan pie), and admitted, “I have a terrible memory. A thing we like about essay plays is that we learn that some partial of my mind is maintaining information.” 

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