James T. Washburn,
My work as a playwright and lyricist/librettist is predicated on the idea that a story is best told with many voices. Depending on the project, this may manifest as speaking with other people about their life experiences or area of expertise, doing deep dramaturgical work to prepare to write a new play, or devising a piece with an ensemble. My work is highly collaborative and focuses on reinterpreting and adding to traditional canons such as folklore and Greek mythology, making space for queer and disabled narratives in familiar stories.
My devising process is informed by Mary Overlie’s Viewpoints, the work of Pina Bausch, and my background in Waldorf philosophy and spirituality. It lives somewhere between traditional playwriting and fully devised work, giving agency and influence to performers without asking them to be playwrights as well.
I begin with the seed of an idea, something rooted in a familiar world with conventions that the ensemble can hold in their minds as they work. Each process is tailored to the strengths and interests of the ensemble; most often, I ask them to embody archetypes from a myth or folk story. With this seed in mind, we begin a process with several rounds of physical improvisation, gesture work, and dramaturgical discussions guided by my own research. As the work progresses, I write a script inspired by what I’ve seen and heard from the ensemble, bringing them the work-in-progress and allowing it to influence their exploration. By the end of the process, the text and physical work have joined into a fully-blocked production that is ready to be performed.
I am keenly aware that, although my voice is important - and, being marginalized on multiple axes, needs to be heard - I am only one person, and I see each story from a limited angle. My process empowers actors to delve deeper, to take pride and ownership of their characters and narratives, because they know them as no one else can.