“Spain’s beloved poet and playwright, Federico García Lorca, whose work flourished in the 1930’s, asserted that duende—a simultaneously dark and beautiful moment of inspiration and truth that is both euphoric and painful as well as purely visceral for both artist and audience—is most present during live performances. The artists as well as the audience can feel the potent, devilish energy of creation when the art is happening right in front of them, wonderfully and devastatingly altering the air and therefore one’s senses, ultimately generating an atmosphere ripe for revelation. I agree with Lorca, and this is why it is vital for my students to see and experience live art.“ – Megan Breen, Playwriting Instructor at New York Film Academy
On Sunday, October 11th, Megan Breen took her Playwriting class to Brooklyn playwright Rajiv Joseph’s exciting new play, Guards at the Taj, at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood. The story follows the complicated brotherhood between two Imperial Guards at the Taj Mahal in India, in 1648, when the exquisite and otherworldly palace was completed.
The Playwriting class is made up of screenwriting students who had read Joseph’s critical Broadway hit, Bengal Tiger and the Baghdad Zoo. The students were so responsive to its existential playfulness and provocative metaphysical explorations, that when the opportunity to see one of Joseph’s works live came about, they jumped at the chance.
Guards at the Taj, and other works by Joseph, has a style that is more theatrical and magical, not as mainstream. It is visceral and thematically challenging with heightened language and a complex tone — the light and dark of duende. So seeing and experiencing how a play like this can be produced is exciting as well as educational for students who are new to playwriting. The students responded to the play’s visceral narrative, which allowed them to feel as if they were there with the characters and therefore more connected to them and their difficult, high stakes plights— soldiers at the whim of an insane ruler. They also loved the humor in the play, and the moving, heartbreaking struggles of the two best friends whose friendship must face an unthinkable challenge.
After the play, the students engaged in a thought-provoking discussion of how to channel what they felt and thought as audience members into their writing, paying specific attention to the theatricality of the stage and how it is unique from film. Each student in the class will be writing his or her own one-act play.
All in all, the field trip was an illuminating, fun and insightful outing vital to the students’ growth as new playwrights. Theater in Los Angeles is very much alive, and the students got to experience its vibrancy firsthand.