By David Provost
On March 30, Sewanee’s new visiting playwright, Cheri Magid presented scenes from two of her drama pieces in a live reading held in Gailor Auditorium. Current Tennessee Williams playwright, Elizabeth Wylder, formally introduced the audience to Magid before the reading commenced. Magid spends her time teaching at the creative writing department at NYU Tisch; workshopping storytelling with her students and leading TV writing “bootcamps” in addition more particularly eroticathemed plays. After the to putting on plays. Once the event began, a number of actors graced the platform to read, including: New York professionals, Magid’s husband, and Sewanee theater major Chase Brantley (C’15).
Magid prefaced the readings with some notes about her journey into the world of theater; and fictional blog Magid published through the voice frequent Sewanee Writers Conference presenter’s audioproduction aired on NPR (titled, Lydia or the Girl and the Wheel: a story about the 1868 transfer of burlesque shows from English to American stages) she began to be offered an array of erotica gigs. Out of them came a about it, sparked her interest. After being commissioned to write erotica of a New York escort, going on to gain as many as 20,000 readers per post. Magid explained she never intended to grow into writing in the erotica genre, but that a certain fascination for the concept of “desire” and the stories that can be told pieces and plays, she later decided to marry the two artforms. The result, as the Tuesday audience witnessed were the highly entertaining The Tavern Wench and The Chosen Ones. The first, covers the seduction of storytelling itself. In The Tavern Wench, a sailor at a bar breaks audience walls to tell the story of his past and his love affair with an erotica writer. The Chosen Ones is a dark comedy that explores the unnatural love that can occur between unlikely people, and love out of seeing other people in love. The two leads in The Chosen Ones are Felix Kirsten a Finnish massage therapist who has mastered Chinese Medicine and Himmler the very architect of the holocaust. In both of the readings, the taboo is delved into and the result was almost always laughter or emotional resonance in her risktaking as a writer.
Magid has a gift for layered storytelling. Layers within the characters (audience members react strongly to seeing Himmler depicted as an actual emotional, complex human), layers within both emotional and physical intimacy and layers regarding many ways of usurping audience expectation. The featured excerpts were thrillers in essence. They made the audience excited and anxious without a single carchase or explosion in the script. Her dialogue is poetic and illuminating and the “love scenes” are earned because of it. When the sailor from The Tavern Wench delivers a line such as, “her sex in my hand”, while describing an act of intimacy, it doesn’t come off as gratuitous, but rather a natural extension of the fictional universe and the characters who dwell in it. Magid says she finds freedom in the current drama she is experimenting in, finding freedom in telling tales about, “the ashamed, the embarrassed with truth.”
Professor Cheri Magid will be offering an introductory playwriting class in the Advent semester of 2015. She encourages any student interested in the craft, or to find out the endings of either The Chosen Ones or The Tavern Wench to register.