Left to right: Matt Casey, ABRadio; Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro, me, Actors Mariko Kanto & Mike C. Tow
What does a writer own but her words?
What is the nature of creativity?
Does the universe belong to a writer?
Live Performance of Verbatim Explores Timely Questions of Creativity, Plagiarism, Responsibility - in TEN Minutes
Steve (played by Mike) is a very popular writer having a really bad day. Or so he sees it. Barbara (played by Mariko) is a less-well known writer whose work has been lifted and incorporated by Mike into his most recent work. The plagiarism has been discovered and widely publicized, and on the way to Barbara's house to discuss his "bad day" he thinks he might've hit someone with his car. Did he? Was it Barbara's neighbor? Does "everything in the universe belong" to a writer?
With beautiful turns of phrase (Barbara's door "takes force to get in, and finesse to get out") Alfaro skillfully focuses our attention on the nature of writing, plagiarism and responsibility. Mike's selfish way of being in the world, to which he himself is oblivious, is portrayed in small but significant gestures: his willingness to pour himself more tea than he is offered by his host, for example. His self-absorption even allows him to cast his having hit a pedestrian with his car as a calamity where he, not the pedestrian, is the victim.
Yet the questions Mike brashly exemplifies are openly debated. Recall the very recent editor at the now-shuttered Cooks Source justifying her plagiarism of a writer's work online by (incorrectly) stating that "anything online is public domain." (See Today's web justice driveby: Cooks Source Magazine.)
The wonder of this play is that the entire work unfolds in ten minutes, and the skill of the playwright is evident when it still manages to be so deeply thought-provoking.
What a treat it was to sit in the taping of the show and experience live performance - great work by all, Rosanna, Mariko and Mike! Rosanna described how a play is much different from other forms in that the actors must know the whole piece and work collaboratively to give a strong performance, to tell the story.
Before and after the play host Matt Casey led an interesting discussion about theater and whether and how plays and live performance speak to a youth culture obsessed with electronic games , smart phones, and social networking.
Rosanna Alfaro Yamagiwa
I first met Rosanna ages ago when I learned of the making of a documentary. She wrote and Lieta Hagemann directed, Japanese American Women a Sense of Place, which became part of a Smithsonian Institution exhibit and aired on PBS in Seattle. Rosanna still remembered my small story shared in the documentary when I surprised her at the Asian Boston radio studio! (Somewhere in my closet is a VHS tape, I think. Is there a VCR left in the universe?)
Rosanna has gone on to have many works featured at prime venues around the world - Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Boston Women on Top, and many more. Most recently, she is preparing to have her play Before I Leave You, run at the Huntington Theater as part of their Breaking Ground series:
Breaking Ground is the Huntington Theatre Company's reading series, a vital part of our new play development program. This series brings attention to the work of local playwrights and presents national writers into partnership with the Huntington. Over the last seven years, Breaking Ground plays have gone on to appear at the Huntington as well as theatres in Boston, across the country, and internationally. Unless otherwise noted, admission to all Breaking Ground readings is FREE and open to the public. Check back often for information on upcoming readings!
Before I Leave You, by Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro
Monday, March 28th at 7pm
Deane Hall, Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA