NEW YORK CITY: Tripwire Harlot Press plans to publish four volumes of plays by groundbreaking writers who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color in what it’s calling the “Sledgehammer Series.” The book project was started by playwrights Sheila Callaghan, Jacqueline Goldfinger, and Sarah Ruhl during the COVID-19 pandemic to address the lack of opportunities and print visibility in dramatic publishing for BIPOC playwrights. The series is completely artist-driven, including the design of covers and printed matter, and features introductions and afterwords that frame the plays within a larger conversation. The aim is to make some of the most exciting work in the American theatre available across the country to those who want to read, teach, and perform these titles, creating a dynamic rising circle of published dramatic work.
“The limited publication of plays, especially work by BIPOC artists, leads to a butterfly effect of access issues for producers, academics, historians, and others,” said Jacqueline Goldfinger in a statement. “In addition, the formatting demands of traditional publishers force text into a monolithic mold which may not serve the artist’s intention. Sledgehammer supports playwrights so that they can create an experience for the reader on the page, just as they create one for the audience on the stage; making the experience of the text singularly performative for each reader.”
The first two volumes in the series, Rarities and Wonders by Phillip Howze and Doodles from the Margins: Three Plays by Hansol Jung, will be released on June 27. The next two volumes, Recent Alien Abductions by Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas and Plays by Christina Anderson, will be published in the fall of 2002.
“The collected works included in my book, Rarities and Wonders, represent an array of actions, disclosures, marvels, and meanderings,” said Howze in a statement. “In a word: plays. I’m delighted to share them here, for the first time, published together in a singular assembly. An assembly is defined as a group of objects or people gathered together for a common purpose. Like the works gathered in my book, this special group of four playwrights—invited here to inaugurate Tripwire Harlot’s brand-new ‘Sledgehammer Series’—are a rare and awesome assembly. Though each individual collection is beautifully unique, we all possess a common purpose: to dismantle some dogma, revitalize the landscape, and nourish the collective garden of American plays.”
Doodles from the Margins: Three Plays by Hansol Jung comprises the plays Wolf Play, No More Sad Things, and Wild Goose Dreams. The plays will have doodles and thoughts from Jung in the margins about her process and the play itself. “I get weirded out by published plays,” said Jung in a statement. “I never feel like they are finished, and yet the ink is so firm and out in the public, that it demands that I put the pencil down. So when Sarah, Jackie, and Sheila rang me up about this brilliant project the Puck in me thought sneakily, ‘I could maybe rattle that permanence of the public ink. I shall scribble and doodle the heaviness of a printed text into something more malleable and forgiving.’ It might just end up an annoying mess. But you know, it’s my mess, and if I’m gonna mess up personally in the public square, I’m glad it’s in the hands of Sledgehammer.”
Christina Anderson’s Plays will include How to Catch Creation, Good Goods, and Hollow Roots. “I’m excited to not only invite readers to read a few of my plays, but also offer a glimpse into my process as a playwright and creative,” said Anderson in a statement. “The three works I include each capture a significant moment in my theatrical journey that continues to evolve. And I designed the book cover, using my photography to create a collage that symbolizes my approach when crafting my play worlds.”
Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas’s Recent Alien Abductions uses the metaphor of alien abduction to explore two kinds of asymmetrical relationships: the experience of growing up queer in a straight family and the geopolitical relationship Puerto Rico has with the United States. “A good measure of the strength and resiliency of any art form is how many opportunities exist for artists that are run by artists, designed by them, and accountable to them,” said Cortiñas in a statement. “This matters because when artists are in charge theatre gets bolder, more idiosyncratic—it dreams further. Sledgehammer is a much needed experiment in putting play publishing in the hands of playwrights.”
All titles will be available online at Amazon and at the Drama Book Shop, with the majority of proceeds going directly to the featured playwrights. Sledgehammer plans to hold a book signing at the Drama Book Shop in September.
“Selfishly, I just want these beautiful plays in my hands!” said Sarah Ruhl in a statement. “And it has mightily irritated me over the years that I teach these brilliant plays all the time but can’t provide my students with physical copies of them. It has been a joy to be part of an artist-centered publishing process that creates community around theatre on the page. I am swooning with delight over the covers that these writers have designed, and what’s more, the plays that are inside are truly extraordinary. You will want to read them over and over again, and you will want to produce them immediately.”
Tripwire Harlot is a small, artist-driven press founded in 2019 by playwright Sheila Callaghan as an imprint of Savage Candy Productions. The press strives to serve the field by amplifying underrepresented voices in the American theatre and beyond by spotlighting adventurous work that might otherwise be overlooked by risk-averse institutions and challenging limitations around dramatic works in print.
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