Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Laura Goldstein

Wheaton will stage its annual New Plays Festival on Saturday and Sunday, April 2 and 3, and one of the works getting its debut will be a piece by Laura Goldstein.

Early preview. I started doing theatre in the eighth grade, and I decided right then and there that I would make a career out of it. When I visited Wheaton, I was blown away by Clinton O’Dell‘s set for “Dracula” and by the friendly-yet-professional atmosphere of the department. I have been involved in productions since my very first semester. Since then, I have built sets, done sound design, been a stagehand, assistant directed, stage managed and acted. And now I’m directing and writing; I’ve discovered that playwriting is really what I want to do with my life.

The plot. My play is called “The Va-Jay-Jay Play.” It is a dark comedy that follows a feminist superhero, Average Jane, and chronicles her journey through a swarm of politics and media that is increasingly hostile to women. I don’t know exactly what put the idea into my head. But there was a lot of anti-woman sentiment from certain politicians who call themselves feminists.

Inspiring words. [Visiting artist and playwright] Suzan-Lori Parks was really essential in helping me get over my fears and inhibitions about writing and just do it. She gave us a number of “suggestions,” which consisted of everything from “entertain all of your far-out ideas” to “get out of your own way.” In a later discussion, she told us that having an artistic license entitles you to do whatever you want. This was exactly the advice I needed, and it reshaped my ideas about playwriting.

Performance art. Theatre is the original platform for acting out our societal fears and anxieties. It’s this amazing communal art form that involves so many people. It asks the audience to engage rather than to passively watch. And it’s prevailed through centuries and become so many different things. The reason I think I’ve been so drawn to playwriting is that as an activist, it allows me to have a platform to reach many people.

Role playing. In my Theatre and Social Change class, we studied how theatre can be used to facilitate discussions about sexuality, race, gender, religion, and politics. We studied everything from playwrights like Eve Ensler and David Hare to Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, a form that began in Brazil as a means of educating through interactive performances. We also had the opportunity to work with performance artist Tim Miller, whose work deals with issues of sexuality, marriage equality and immigration. Professor Jennifer Madden once told me that all art is political, and I think that I’ve really started to see the truth in that.