Novi Sad, November 19, 2013

Where we are

Open House is set a few years into New York’s imagined future, after some series of calamities – a “slow conflagration” that add up to mass exodus – has cleared out the city. A real estate broker and a young couple are asking us to buy back in; they use scenes from their former lives in the city to make us long for the ways things used to be, in all their complex glory.

I wrote the play with a kind of post-September 11 acceptance of the fragility of what once seemed permanent, and with a clear sense that the economic bubble of the early 2000’s was unsustainable (the play was produced about six months before 2008’s economic collapse). As we developed the play, Melanie Joseph, from The Foundry Theatre, kept saying, this economy is false. It can’t last. Doesn’t everyone know?

Yesterday, the actors told me about the NATO bombing of 1999 here, in which all the three bridges across the Danube were blown up. We talked about what that kind of trauma can do to a relationship, to a neighborhood and to a city. So we are resituating the piece around that event. It is a surreal thing to follow your own work in a language you don’t speak, and still feel the same laughs and lumps.

I like that this project is long enough over for me that I can let it go with these guys. They want to improvise some scenes: great. They want to get rid of a few very NYC specific references: awesome. Because real estate speculation is less prevalent here, the actors and I have talked about eventually turning the play into a two-character endeavor, with each of them absorbing some of the broker’s lines about rebuilding and about imagining a different future. I like that, too. I think of the play as source code for new creations. I’m thinking of giving us all co-creator credit.

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