What inspires a playwright to write a particular play? Wouldn’t we all like to know, to be privy to the initial creative sparks that formed the theatre’s great canon of dramatic literature – from the works of Sophocles and Shakespeare, to Hugo and Beckett. And where the monolithic realm of the American family drama is concerned, few creative impulses come as close to the scintillating crackle of Arthur Miller’s infamous real-life inspiration for A View from the Bridge: “Hey Art! I keep havin’ this dream where I’m fucking my niece…what’ya think that means?” Like most tragedies, Miller’s hopelessly myopic figure seems powerless to avoid his ensuing fate, moving with each and every step toward the very outcome he is so desperately trying to avoid. In this form of mimesis, the protagonist’s outcome is determined by his very own actions, however flawed or damning they may be. But this long-standing mode of human imitation begs a question: To what extent are our lives really in our own hands? And is life truly best represented on the stage as a series of connected events, of plot points, if you will? Or rather, is the human experience a profoundly liminal and ubiquitous encounter, comprised only of the here and now, the present moment continually repeating itself until we are each guided to a new and hopefully enlightened state of being?
In a recent discussion of her new play, Julia May Jonas stated: “I took the play’s title from a Buddhist text, and so I wanted to use the system of Buddhist realms as a structural device. I find the Buddhist realms fascinating because they function both as ways of describing the world as it exists as well as describing different states that we go through as human beings. It is said that the most privileged realm to exist in is the Human Realm, because there is the right balance of suffering and joy to study the nature of the mind, and therefore attain enlightenment.”
If so, then perhaps there is another road of theatrical representation to be achieved, one which represents the inherent passivity of human life, the acknowledgement of the chance-like currents that move us all and their dominance in determining the direction of our lives. Maybe all we can hope to achieve, in the end, is the stillness, the nothingness of the moment in which we stand – the only moment that ever truly exists. According to Jonas, “No One is Excused from the Trouble of Living,” was fundamentally inspired by a provocative idea: “to write about nothing.” Perhaps that “nothing” is the nothingness that is life — neither good nor bad, merely life, the life that each of us must endure…that none of us are excused from living.
— Jay Jaski, Dramaturg