I can trace many important moments of discovery in my life back to theatrical productions that I experienced as an audience member. One of those moments was when I saw Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde by Moises Kaufman. I was in my third year of graduate school, and one of my professors suggested that a group of us go see the performance. We drove down to New York City from Amherst, Massachusetts, on a cold, rainy Sunday, and we saw the play at the Minetta Lane Theatre. I remember that it was one of those completely overwhelming moments for me as a watched actors switch seamlessly back and forth between characters, pick up books and read from them as if they were collecting research notes right in front of us, and capture sexuality and sensuality without using nudity or being salacious. The play was not about shocking its audience but rather about educating its audience about Oscar Wilde and world in which he lived and died.
Very soon after seeing that first time, I went back for a second time. I couldn't get enough of the experience, this theatricalization of research that somehow made me want to learn me and see more and make more. It was the perfect combination of history and artistry, and I felt like I was seeing possibilities that I didn't know existed in the theatre.
Fast forward to the present while reflecting on my past, and it's clear that Kaufman's play has affected many of the pieces I've created and hope to create in the future. I've embraced my love of history and have used primary and secondary source material to create new work. I continue to think about how gender and sexuality play out in daily interactions and in artistic explorations. The energy and eroticism of Gross Indecency is something that I won't ever forget, and I try to go towards it in my own work.
For inspiring me to use history to make research based art, for showing me the depth of Wilde's facility with language, and for giving me a goal to reach for each time I make a new play, Moises Kaufman is the artist I admire for this week.