Ben Hoover Discuses His Thesis Play

June 13, 2016

Ben Hoover's thesis play, Pioneer Species, follows Nick as returns to Pennsylvania after a long stint in the Amazon. After suffering from sunburn and mosquitos, he thinks he’s ready for all this old trappings of home—but then he finds himself curiously unmoved by Thanksgiving traditions, and he sets off on creating for himself a new kind of family that he can call his own. According to the play’s synopsis, “Pioneer Species is parts naturalistic play and installation performance that reflects on survival: what does it take to get by in a house where only blood connects?”

Pioneer Species was produced at the Ford Studio at Pershing Square Signature Center in April and May.

Can you tell me a little bit about the origin of this play? Where did the idea come from? Did you work on it in class?

Central Pennsylvania has this amazing state holiday that occurs the Monday after Thanksgiving. Schools, governments, malls—everything—takes the day off so that hunters can go out hunting for the first day of deer season. I was interested in situating a play around this “holiday.” I started thinking about this play while spending time at the Shanghai Theatre Academy in the winter of 2014. Then, it was titled Essence of Thyme and was more about time than about family and was going to be more narratively abstract. As I developed the play through exercises in Kelly Stuart’s playwriting course during the spring of 2012, I found that by grounding the play within an old standard storyline (the prodigal son, sort of), I was able to explore some abstract concepts of time more thoroughly.

Who is your mentor? Why did you want them as your mentor?

My mentor is Anne Washburn, whom I respect completely. I decided to ask her to be my mentor because the style and subjects of each of her plays varies greatly. She writes each of her plays with the assumption that it need not fit within the same container that she last used to write a play, and so each of her plays is distinct and individualized. Plus, the specificity of her language is very jealousy-making. I could go on. She’s the absolute best.

Is there a question that your play is asking, or that you were seeking to answer when you started writing this play?

I think at the most general, I am asking whether it’s possible to ever go home. But that doesn’t quite cover it all for me, so I guess I’m also asking: Does the experience of time differ in the home/buildings/inside/what-have-you than when outside, in nature, separated from society?

Read more about Hoover and Pioneer Species