Meet the 2020-21 Hugo Fellows! In this series, we’re catching up with each of the fellows to learn more about them, their favorite places to write, and their current projects.
Brian Dang (they/them) is a Seattle-based playwright. They are currently a proud resident playwright with the Seattle playwriting group, Parley. For Brian, playwriting is an act of envisioning an eventual communing – of ideas and people in shared creation. Their writing has been workshopped with Pork Filled Productions, Karen’s Secret Army, Theatre Battery, and the Undergraduate Theater Society. Brian is also an arts administrator with Washington Ensemble Theater, passionate about educational equity, and on the side, they like to watch movies, revel in hopeless romanticism, pet cats, and eat bread. Brian is grateful for having somehow convinced the world they can read and write.
What’s one of the best pieces of writing advice you’ve ever received?
This is not exactly “advice” but here is a quote on style from Suzan-Lori Parks: “I don’t explode the form because I find traditional plays ‘boring’—I don’t really. It’s just that those structures never could accommodate the figures which take up residence inside me.”
This clicked and resonated with me instantly. I don’t hate realism, but I hate realism. Structure? Throw it out the window. When I was first getting started, I was obsessed with writing something that made “sense” and followed some random lad’s idea of a pyramid mapped onto a story. The idea of what’s actually inside me and how I feel has never mapped onto a “traditional” (hard emphasis on the quotes) play. It’s like Suzan-Lori Parks gave me permission or something. The next play I wrote was about Hello Kitty and how she’s not a cat. She’s a girl.
Where are some of your favorite places to write in Seattle?
This is a cliché, but I am wholeheartedly a cafe writer. I love sitting amongst strangers, semi-low light, tea, coffee, pastries, voices, eavesdropping, and asking people to watch my things when I need to go to the bathroom. I’ve been in the UW area for some time, and my two favorite cafes to work in have been Cafe Solstice and Tea Republik.
What are some things you’re enjoying about the Fellowship program so far?
THE COHORT! I love building writing community, and the cohort has been so welcoming, friendly, and fun to get to know and work with. We’ve made a collaborative playlist, shared recommendations for writing, vented about our feelings, had writing nights via video call, and more. 💖
Tell us more about your project.
I am working on a play in a new form I’m attempting that I have yet to name. I’m toying with “play-length poem” or “a collection of poems that’s a play.” Playwriting is my usual trade, but I’m absolutely enamored with reading and writing poetry right now and the use of it as dialogue to express what cannot be expressed without verse. It’s tentatively titled this time, in the end, we [ ]. It’s an inside-out murder mystery. It’s a femme romance. It’s about trying to find agency in a capitalist nation state when it feels like it’s impossible.
Are there any writers whose work has been particularly helpful for you as you think about your project?
I’m currently drawing inspiration from Sarah Kane’s structure in Crave and 4.48 Psychosis,the poeticism of Maggie Nelson’s Jane: A Murder,Dorothy Porter’s The Monkey’s Mask, Nobuhiko Obayashi’s Hausu, Welcome to Nightvale, If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho translated by Anne Carson, and the revolutionary/theoretical politics of Suzan-Lori Parks, Silvia Federici, Da’Shaun Harrison, and the anthology Captive Genders (ed. Eric A. Stanley and Nat Smith).
Basically: murder, horror, feminist texts, death, love, agency, capitalism, theatrical structure, talking about how theatrical structure sucks, gender, murder again.