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On writing "Witts: Ballad of Queer Cowboys"

BY CALLA WRIGHT

I began writing my play “Witts: Ballad of Queer Cowboys” with Criteria. I wanted to write a play about queer people, a play with a variety of queer relationships - romantic partners, sure, but also friends, mentors, and especially family. I wanted to write a historical play, a historical fantasy that would make me feel the same way that (I imagine) straight men feel when they watch John Wayne movies. I wanted to write a John Wayne play where John Wayne was a queer woman. And most of all, I wanted to write a play that was lots and lots of fun.

Of course, setting out to write A Fun Play pretty much guarantees that the first couple of drafts are going to be the farthest thing from fun imaginable. This is where it is enormously helpful to have a dramaturg look at a play. As a fresh pair of eyes not already mired in the muck that is your theatrical baby, a dramaturg is able to suggest things that might never have occured to the playwright. It is such a great blessing to get to have someone with a wealth of theatrical knowledge look at your work and say things like, “I think your point would come across better if you switched those two scenes,” and “This line isn’t funny and I think you want it to be. Here’s how it could be funnier,” and even, “No, no, you’re not a terrible writer - that’s all in your head. Parts of your play are even good.”

In Ergo Pink Fest, I am very privileged to be working with Marcia Johnson. Having worked extensively in theatre, she was able to suggest several changes that, while not changing the essential structure of the play, helped make the story more cohesive and give it a better flow. The job of a good dramaturg is to support the intention and thrust of the play while also helping to make it the best it can possibly be. I am very grateful to Marcia and to Ergo for giving me this opportunity to create the very best queer-female-John-Wayne play that I can.

Calla Wright1 Comment