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Letters from the Artists

A Letter from Danai Gurira

It was definitely surprising: the one time I write a play about something as close to me as my family was the play that took the longest to complete! It was as though the story was all too…familiar to me, and so I struggled to bring forth its on-stage incarnation.

That feeling finally came at Playwrights. 

Familiar’s birthing process required two productions to get to the point where I truly felt that playwright feeling. That’s the feeling that comes from blood, sweat and tears; that first time you watch that first full performance where you are able to sit back and enjoy it and at the final bow say, in your soul: “That’s what I meant.” 

That feeling finally came at Playwrights. 

The work began as a commission and a great amount of support (and patience) from Yale Repertory Theatre. This play took its time. The pressure to push it in a direction it was not ready to go, to get it ready for the New York press, was alleviated when Playwrights offered me a New York premiere before the Yale production had even opened. That allowed my director and me the freedom to find the play as it revealed itself, to have a true artistic journey, unburdened by the success of a play being defined by the reviews of New York press. 

Once we were done at Yale, we began a deeply exploratory second iteration at Playwrights. The process, once again, required a great amount of patience on their part. Neither my director nor I were willing to rush any detail: not the script, not the cast, not the designers, not the details of the designs presented. We worked for months; coming together for countless casting sessions, design meetings, and workshops. With differing schedules and juggled obligations, none of this was an easy feat.

Throughout it all, it was a deeply collaborative experience with Playwrights, with Tim Sanford deeply involved and present every step of the way. The result was felt at that moment when, on the last preview, I was able to say, at that bow, “That’s what I meant.”

The process Playwrights Horizons allowed me is one not often afforded playwrights in the industry today. The art suffers as a result. The fact that Familiar got a shot at becoming all I had hoped it would is something I will always be grateful for.

I’d be grateful if you would make a gift to Playwrights this year. You’ll help ensure that many more plays like mine will be able to have their own true artistic journeys.

Thank you. 

Danai Gurira
Playwright, Familiar
November 2016

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