by Alyson Plasterer
On Tuesday, September 18, the Tennessee Williams Center held a reading of Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder’s newest work: A Requiem for August Moon. The play is the newest in a series from Sewanee’s Tennessee Williams Playwright-in-Residence. Others include Gee’s Bend, The Bone Orchard, and Fresh Kills, among many others.
When asked what her inspiration for August Moon was, Wilder said: “When I was a staff member on a short-lived show called Love Monkey, we had to pitch ideas for stories related to music. I found an article about a mathematical algorithm for predicting a hit song, which record companies now use to predict the potential success of a song before its release. The idea never made it onto the show, but it stayed with me over the years.”
The play, full of quippy banter and rock and roll references, is funny, truthful, and heartwarming all at once. It was especially enhanced by the wonderful performances of the student actors Elise Anderson (C’16), Oliver Crawford (C’14), Megan Quick (C’15), and Chair of the Theatre Department Pete Smith, not to mention the fantastic reading of the stage directions by Mary Morrison (C ‘15).
“The best thing about being a playwright,” Wilder said, “unlike writers in other genres, is that I get to watch my audience experience my work. Writing is such a solitary art, but when you take a play and transform it into theatre, it becomes collaborative.”
What is her advice to future playwrights? “If you want to write plays it is imperative that you read plays and go to see plays. You will be inspired by the good ones, and you will learn from the bad ones. My favorite playwright are those who write plays I could never imagine writing, simply because my brain doesn’t work the same way. However, the risks they take with their style, structure, and content keep me inspired.”
Although Wilder assured the audience that A Requiem for August Moon is still a work in progress, the message it conveyed was clear: that music, like all things, means the most when it comes from the heart.