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WTF is a Play Cycle – Pt. 4

The Purpose of Play Cycles/Artist Prophet

The Greeks were not only telling tales to reintegrate their citizens but they were developing stories that encapsulated their history, stories that allowed the viewer to examine civilization. In Julie Spark’s Playwrights’ Progress she states that the greek plays were performed as a mode of civic self-examination. Writers get a calling and feel the need to express and examine their modern time.

In the preface of Back to Methuselah George Bernard Shaw writes about his concerns with contemporary writers: “The leaders among my own contemporaries (now veterans) snatched at minor social problems rather than write entirely without any wider purpose than to win money and fame. One of them expressed to me his envy of the ancient Greek playwrights because the Athenians asked them, not for some ‘new and original’ disguise of the half-dozen threadbare plots of the modern theatre, but for the deepest lesson they could draw from the familiar and sacred legends in their country.”

Bernard Shaw believed that he was writing play cycles to act as an artist-prophet by looking into a higher consciousness of purpose to explore the “whole horror of the dilemmas from which the world is shrinking today”. Shaw noticed his contemporaries were writing for monetary gain rather than understanding the societies psyche. The scope of topic about modern civilization may be so broad that one piece could not do it justice. He believed that cycle writers developed a calling to not just write one specific story but to write many that focused on the life force of their time that needed to be told.

More contemporary than Shaw, is the 2012 Pulitzer prize winner Quiara Algeria Hudes who acts as a artist-prophet in her own way. Hudes writings focus specially around Latinos in the New York and Philadelphia metropolis areas. With her Elliot Cycle (Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue, Water By The Spoonful and The Happiest Song Plays Last) she interviewed her family members about specific experiences of latinos living and acting in during the times of war. During a personal interview with R. Evolucion Latina, Hudes talks about having experienced a call to arms at the time when some of her older family members were dying. She began talking with them and writing down their tales so she could preserve some of the stories about her people that other groups would not know about. She commits to write for an audience to help them connect and learn about her ethnic culture. Just one play of the Elliot cycle would not have been enough to encapsulate the trauma and repercussion of war for an entire family that the entire cycle portrays. Hudes had felt the draw of necessity to explore and interview people in her culture for herself so that she can tell the world about this large part of our community that is under explored.


Pt. 5 – Next week

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