Emma Stanton Discusses Her Thesis Play

June 13, 2016

Emma Stanton’s thesis play, No Candy, centers around multi-generational, multi-ethnic Bosnian women who run a gift shop near the Srebrenica memorial, and how they cope, both privately and publicly, with the traumas they experienced during the war. No Candy is about how trauma inhabits the body and shapes a community. But it is also about the persistence of humor, art and absurdity in an unimaginable time.

No Candy ran 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?

I began working on this play the fall of my second year at Columbia in a class with Morgan Jenness. At the time, the Yazidi women were being taken by ISIS, and I wanted to respond to it in some way. It made me think about the female experience during war, how the body can be used as a weapon of war and re-identification, and how trauma continues to live in a community long after the traumatic events are over. This brought me to the landscape of the Bosnian War in the nineties, in particular the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims, where the men were exterminated and sexual violence was enacted on the bodies of the women. It also brought me to the work of Bosnian artist Šejla Kamerić, who was a teenager at the time of the war. In my conversations with her and in observing her work, she very much insists on the duality of lightness living alongside atrocity and trauma. That during the war, there were sunny days, babies being born, theater being produced, and somewhere, some teenager was listening to Nirvana in their headphones and ignoring their parents. There’s a kind of absurdity in that duality, of living during war, and I believe in it. And I’ve been writing with it in mind as I’ve worked to create the world of No Candy and the community of women that inhabit it.

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

Caridad Svich is my mentor, and I chose her because she’s a rockstar! She’s an experimenter with form and language, coming into the world of each play from an unexpected angle and delving deeply into diverse points of views. Her writing is visceral and muscular, and at times extremely delicate and refined. I really admire that range and want to continue to develop that elasticity in my work as well.

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

My questions remain to be: How does trauma continue to live in the body after the event is over? Is there a space for humor in a troubled landscape? How do my characters disengage and reconnect with their identities?

And here’s a new question: How does a karaoke dance fantasia fit into the world of the play?

Read more about Stanton and No Candy here.