Last night, I had the extreme honor of seeing Art Spiegelman speak at Hendrix. For those who aren't familiar with his work, he wrote and drew Maus and In the Shadow of No Towers. He makes these notable little books called graphic novels, which is not a phrase he uses. He would just say that he draws comic books.
That man can TALK. He talked for 2 hours and would have kept going if he had been allowed to. It was pretty fascinating, to learn the history of comics and to learn how to read one. The talk was pretty dense, it was a lot of information thrown at the audience, but it was a fun and fascinating talk. How often can you say that you saw a speaker call an audience a bunch of anti-Semites, and have the audience crack up at it? Of course, there's context, but he really makes you think about a lot of things: about race, anti-semitism, comics and where they fall in the spectrum of art, if they are art, sex, you name it. He's a pretty fascinating man. Check these out of you are interested in his work, as well you should be. Maus is beautiful. I haven't read In the Shadow of No Towers but I might change that in the future.
Okay, so what does this have to do with playwriting? As I was listening to him speak and watched him pick apart comic pages and as he talked about the architecture involved in comics, I realized, I had SO much to learn from them! Part of writing a play does involve thinking about the visuals of the work and because comics blend words and images, I would argue that reading comics can inform writing plays incredibly. There was something that rang so true about the building of a strip and how much work went into them that I could relate to--I could call Mr. Spiegelman a comic-wright, but that would sound strange. But it makes sense--there is a lot of building involved, a similar construct. It is helpful to think of writing a play and creating a comic as being a similar kind of building--a long long long lost cousin.
Another thing that drew me to his work is the fact that the play I'm working on for National Playwriting Month (http://naplwrimo.org), or rather, WILL be working on, is about the Holocaust, 'In the Bunker'. I kept wanting to ask him a question about constructing the work, about the play and how it's not the kind of play I would normally write, or maybe I'm just saying that because I know that Hitler will be portrayed in this play, and I don't want to look like a sympathizer, but how does one construct something and not look like an asshole? I couldn't figure out how to vocalize this question because there's more to it than not wanting to be an asshole, and I think that some of it comes from my goy background, and how does a goy write about another group of goys, but this particular group of goys like killing Jews? See? It's still not making sense. It's just a struggle I've had with 'In the Bunker', and I suspect he would tell me to not worry about it and let the story be the story. Probably after he called me an anti-Semite in jest of course.