National Reports

Southern New England by Charlene Donaghy

Photo of David Auburn and Charlene Doneghy
David Auburn and Charlene Donaghy

Southern New England by Charlene Donaghy

At the Kennedy Center Summer Playwriting Intensive in 2010, the indomitable Gary Garrison gave an assignment to write using Louisiana as inspiration. Score! You see, to that point, New Orleans had been my second home for fifteen years so writing her decadence and her decay was what I loved. However, sitting in my room during another 2am writing session, I remembered why we were at the intensive: to challenge ourselves on our writing journey. So, I decided to set my piece in northeast Louisiana, far from the saxophones and neon of Bourbon Street, far from the streetcars and the muddy Mississippi, far from what someone might think of as “New Orleans.” The next morning, after Gary read our works, he commented on how most of us ignored those luscious elements of writing New Orleans, the city that Tennessee Williams called his spiritual home. I could have written those elements, keeping in my paddle-wheelhouse but, instead, the beginning of what would become a full-length play was set in the pine forests and racial tensions of 1965 Washington Parish. After that morning chat with playwrights, I approached Gary and, wagging my finger in his face (can you believe I did that?), proceeded to tell him there was more to writing Louisiana than New Orleans. In that calm Texas drawl Gary possesses, he asked me to sit until the room cleared and we would talk. So, I sat, the room cleared, we talked, and in many more ways than I ever expected, that conversation brought me a dear friendship with Gary and a connection to the Dramatists Guild that changed my life, propelling me to be a better artist and advocate.

As I remember these last eight years, the memories and relationships I treasure from the Dramatists Guild could fill this entire issue of The Dramatist. They are bountiful and varied, centered on the sense of union and community where our art and craft are supported, celebrated, and protected. At the first DG National Conference in 2011, I sat at the breakfast with Stephen Schwartz sharing intense laughter about writing my muse. I was honored to have the brilliant and kind Doug Wright craft the cover quote for my collection of plays and, equally as wonderful, swap writing stories in one of our favorite east coast hamlets. Marsha Norman bought me popcorn. Seth Cotterman showed me how to tweet. Houston Regional Representative William Duell outed my playwright crush to John Patrick Shanley. I’ve had the immense pleasure of writing and working with fellow southern New England Dramatists Guild members, including Emma Palzere-Rae, Judith Clinton, William Squier, Steven Otfinoski, and many more, on events like the Connecticut Playwrights and Artists Festival and the Summer Social. National Playwrights Conference at The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center Artistic Director Wendy Goldberg and I connected on warm summer evenings about what it takes to run theatre festivals. 

In championing fellow dramatists, I have been proud of my role as producer, educator, and arts administrator. Now, these are the roles that I must focus on, while squirreling away precious time to dedicate to my own art and craft of writing for the stage. I have made the difficult decision to step down from this inaugural position as the Southern New England Regional Representative. I have enjoyed every moment of my time as a regional representative and have been proud to support the Dramatists Guild’s mission and the dramatists in our region as well as throughout New England, New York, and beyond. 

I know that the next representative will bring fresh enthusiasm to the role and I look forward to assisting her or him. Thank you all for entrusting me with championing our art. Thank you, Gary Garrison, for changing my life. As long as there are ghost lights that flicker in the night, I will continue my connection to the Dramatists Guild and to all of you talented, spirited dramatists.