Meet the Playwrights: Becca Plunkett

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16-Apr-17
Current student Becca Plunkett’s thesis play A DollZes HoUse, takes place in a war-torn nation, when a power-hungry King forces his royal court to perform a heavily redacted version of A Doll’s House. The King’s favorite, Tulip, stars in the show as Nora, a role she’s been preparing for her entire life. When Tulip discovers that the King has altered Ibsen’s ending to promote his own, twisted ideology, her porcelain world begins to crack.

A DollZes HoUse will run at the Signature Center on May 4, 5, and 6.

Plunkett discussed Cosmo, King Louis XIV, and Taylor Mac’s theatrical marathon. Full interview available here.
 

Can you tell me a little bit about the origin of this play? Where did the idea come from?
 
It’s hard for me to pinpoint the exact moment when the idea for this play was conceived, but I think it happened last summer; and I think it was while I was waiting on the A train at West 4th. The train was taking forever to arrive, and my headphones were broken, and I didn’t have a book, and my phone was dead, so I decided to buy a magazine. (I am terrible at standing around waiting.) I was looking at the magazines, and the vendor said something like: “What one do you want, Sweetie, the Cosmo?” I’m sure I scowled, or rolled my eyes, or something – because (1) why is he calling me “sweetie”? And (2) I did not want the Cosmo. The Cosmo was not even on my radar. I looked over at the cover of the Cosmo. The headlines were things like “The Best Work-Out for your Boobs,” or “10 Tips to Satisfy Your Man.” And I couldn’t decide which bothered me more: the headlines, or the fact that this (male) vendor, who knows absolutely nothing about me, assumed that I would want this magazine, with headlines about boobs and satisfying my man.

I ended up buying the magazine. And I read it on the train. As I was reading, I started thinking about the standards of “beauty” to which women are held. And then I started thinking about the misogynistic attitudes that are so deeply imbedded in our culture...
 
This train of thought lead to an image of a woman who had been converted into a doll – a living, breathing woman turned into an actual, porcelain doll. Dolls made me think of A Doll’s House, and I spent the summer working with the metaphor of women as dolls. In the fall, the election happened, of course, and I was confused and scared – and I still am – about what, exactly, this presidency means not only for women, but for all human beings. As I continued writing, the doll metaphor started to fit with this larger theme of anxiety and fear about what would come next; and for whatever reason, it felt like the play needed to take place in a world of violence and destruction. In November, I read a book about King Louis XIV, several books about King Louis XIV, actually. And somehow, all of these crazy ideas about dolls, and the apocalypse, and the reign of King Louis XIV, and the “Best Work-Out for my Boobs” snapped together, yielding the crazy synopsis described above.


Who is your mentor? Why did you want them as your mentor?
 
Taylor Mac is my mentor. I wanted Taylor as my mentor because judy has a penchant for the big and theatrical, for the grotesque and ridiculous. As a writer, the style of my work is similarly inclined, and often explores themes Taylor’s work has explored/deconstructed in the past (e.g. gender norms and roles, patriarchy, identity, just to name a few). Taylor is also a multi-disciplinary maker of theatre, as am I, so asking judy to be my mentor was sort of a no-brainer. And, I mean, did you see 24-Decade History of Popular Music? Because it was amazing. You know what? I’ll just make my answer that.


A DollZes HoUse will run at the Ford Studio at Pershing Square Signature Center on May 4 at 8 pm, May 5 at 2:30 pm, and May 6 at 7:30 pm. Free tickets are available here.

Becca Plunkett is a theater-maker from Austin, Texas. She was a resident artist at the Rhodopi International Theatre Laboratory in Smolyan, Bulgaria, where she studied performance traditions such as Kathakali, Kabuki, and Peking Opera. Many of her plays are influenced by these performance techniques and often explore gender roles, class structure, and semiotics/codification. Her plays include The Conflabbergation, Love Is, Love Was, and The Fifth Sun.


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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.