an introduction to Broad Spectrum
get to know our new columnist, playwright Monet Hurst-Mendoza, with a recap of her theatrical journey and a sneak peek at what she's working on now.
Art is arguably the most subjective thing on the planet. Take it from someone who is insane enough to be a playwright for a semi-living. In addition to creating and producing theatre, I'm also a culture-monger. I enjoy a good gallery or museum crawl; I get really giddy for foreign films; and I have a weird affinity for performance art in site-specific locations. I know I sound like a mega-bougie asshole, but as my friend Patricia Ione Lloyd recently wrote in a play: "everyone likes bougie shit." (To be clear, I can't actually afford to be bougie - I'm a playwright from Los Angeles who has been trying to stay afloat in New York City's widening economic gap for the last 10 years. But I like to fake it.)
Spoiler alert: this column is going to be about bougie arts-related shit. And gender. And race. And the places where they intersect.
But first, a little bit about me:
I found my way to writing the way I think most playwrights do – as an actor. I moved from my hometown of Pasadena, CA to NYC when I was 18 to go to college for musical theatre (something I had been actively pursuing and training in since I was 8). I applied to 11 schools and was only accepted into 2. When I was waitlisted for the musical theatre program, it was a complete shock to my system – I felt stunted and lost in a new city where I knew absolutely no one; it was actually one of the best things that has ever happened to me, even though I didn’t know it at the time.
I couldn’t declare a theatre major without approval from the department, and after a semester of gen ed classes, I marched right into the Department Chair's office and asked how I could be admitted into the Theatre program. Auditions weren’t for another few months and I couldn’t wait that long to take classes I was actually interested in. She began relaying all the things I could do: design, stage management, theatre studies, directing, playwriting…
As a kid I was always writing short stories and poetry. Words were comfortable for me from Day 1. In my high school theatre class, I had an assignment to write a 10-page play, and I came out with 59 pages. I told the Department Chair I would submit that, knowing full well that once I was accepted into the department, changing concentrations would be easier. I submitted it and a few weeks later, she accepted me into the playwriting program, which of course, I didn’t realize was small – about 12 people – and highly competitive. I was very fortunate, and I didn’t even realize it until much later. Once I started taking the classes, though, I fell in love with writing and reading plays in a way I had never experienced. I took one acting class in college – as a playwriting requirement – and I couldn’t stand it. Sometimes fate works in very odd ways. I share this anecdote as a means of introduction because it captures predominant facets of my personality: determination, boldness, impatience, and above all, my penchant for storytelling.
I firmly believe that art is essential to our human makeup. I'm fascinated by how it simultaneously comforts and exposes us. When it's really good, it can cut you with staggering truth, and touch you like a long-lost lover. The ability to evoke that feeling is powerful, potent, and necessary. That feeling is why I write.
Shameless plug of the week:
I'm writing this from the rehearsal room for my new play Veil'd, part of the Women's Project Theater's Pipeline Festival. The Pipeline Festival showcases the work of the celebrated WP Lab, a two-year artistic residency for exceptional playwrights, directors, and producers. In its 2016 inaugural year, the Pipeline Festival provides a unique opportunity for audiences and industry to access five new plays at various stages of development, ranging from staged readings to full-length workshop productions. True to its name, the Festival will serve as a pipeline to funnel talented female artists and their work to the forefront of American theater. Check out the behind-the-scenes video here.
March 24 - April 23, 2016
Performance Times: Thursdays @ 7p, Fridays @ 3 & 8p, and Saturdays @ 8p
Location: McGinn/Cazale Theater on the Upper West Side (2162 Broadway at 76th Street)
Tickets: $20/show OR $45 for a Festival pass to all five shows
Monet Hurst-Mendoza is a New York-based playwright from Los Angeles, CA. Her plays have been developed with The Women's Project, Rising Circle Theater Collective, |the claque|, Lookingglass Theatre, The Oneness Project, The Other Mirror, The Kupferberg Center, #serials@The Flea, Amios' Shotz!, Flux Theatre Ensemble, and the Playwright's Playground at Classical Theatre of Harlem. She is an Artist in Residence with The Other Mirror, and a playwright at the inaugural 2016 MITTEN Lab for emerging artists in Bear Lake, MI. Monet is also a member of the 2017 Emerging Writers Group at The Public Theater, |the claque|'s Octo-Group, and is a 2014-2016 Women's Project Lab Time Warner Foundation Fellow. She is a proud member of |the claque| and Rising Circle Theater Collective, where she produces the annual INKtank Lab/PlayRISE Festival for playwrights of color.