This Sunday, OBIE Award-winning playwright Caridad Svich will be present as her play “Spark” is read by a cast of CSU students. And students here are not alone — as part of NoPassport Theatre Alliance and Press, “Spark” is currently being read around the world.
“While issues may inspire the heart of the work I write,” Svich wrote in an email to the Collegian, “at day’s end, what I am interested in are people — their connections, their struggles, hope and joy.”
She’ll get a chance to make those connections with students who want to better understand the playwright’s process. Junior social work major Taryn Gawronski is looking forward to Svich’s visit to her Advanced Playwriting class.
“I like seeing where people start, where the ideas come from, how the characters are formed,” Gawronski said. “It’s also really amazing getting to talk to a playwright because you can actually ask what their vision was, compare it to what you did or didn’t see, and see how effectively they communicated their ideas to the audience.”
Walt Jones, director of the Division of Theatre and Dance at CSU, invited Svich to CSU in order to expose students to professionals in the performing arts industry.
“Students will meet an OBIE Lifetime Achievement award-winner who has carved out a distinctive voice in the theatre, multicultural distinction, someone who has actually been successful in making playwriting her career,” Jones said.
The OBIE awards are for achievement in Off-Broadway productions and awarded by The Village Voice newspaper in New York.
“We’re a landlocked state, far from the theatre marketplaces, and … visits from working professionals with different, more seasoned aesthetics, complement programs of any kind,” Jones said.
“Spark” tells the story of three North Carolina sisters, one of whom is a soldier returning from war. This production is ultimately to honor U.S. veterans and to raise awareness of the psychological and social impacts of returning soldiers.
“So many women have served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and I think that still, in terms of fictional representations in the media, very few stories are out there,” Svich wrote. “The highest percentage of homelessness among returning vets from these two wars right now are women, for example. I wanted to look at service through both the warrior, the one who served, and the story of those who have stayed on the homefront.”
“Spark” is one of four plays grouped into what Svich calls “The American Quartet.” Svich has either lived in or had long, transformative visits to all locations these plays are set in.
“As a freelance artist I know all too well what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck. I am the child of immigrants and very much grew up in a working-class household. Issues of class and economic disparity are ones with which I am well familiar,” she wrote. “Theatre is a place of transformation. I don’t write finger-wagging plays.”
Gawronski found the play to not only be realistic, but also saturated with a sense of humanity.
“What I liked most about the play were the characters, and more specifically the way she wrote the dialogue. Sometimes when I read a play there seems to be a lot of frivolousness, talking that isn’t necessary. Svich gets right down to the point; there isn’t unnecessary dialogue. That’s what makes it believable,” Gawronski said.
Svich will be in residency until next Wednesday. The reading is free and open to the public.