If there’s one thing to be certain of it’s that things at PlayMakers are getting very exciting. Coinciding with the release of the 2017/2018 season line up, one of our very own dramaturgs has already won an award for her highly-anticipated new play Among These Wild Things.
Playwright and PlayMakers dramaturg Jacqueline E. Lawton has recently received the Junior Faculty Award from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for her work Among These Wild Things, a piece set to address the ethical and moral dilemmas a couple faces when they learn that any children they bring into the world may have a terminal genetic disorder. The award is meant to help fund research and development for the production, as the play is one of the first to actually explore the sometimes turbulent ethical balance between human rights and genetics.
Lawton’s inspiration for the play came about two years ago, when she was invited to participate in a workshop co-hosted by the National Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) of the National Institute of Health and the Smithsonian Associates. At the workshop, researchers gave insight to the moral dilemmas that many scientists and clinicians face when dealing with specific psychological or medical circumstances. There, Lawton was inspired to combine scientific research and human ethics with playwriting and production.
With collaboration from UNC’s Bryson Distinguished Professor of Genetics and Medicine, Dr. Jim Evans, Among These Wild Things will be the perfect mix of art and science. Lawton shared her and Dr. Evans’ ideas about how their collaboration will bring out the true potential of the production, saying, “Ultimately, we both agreed that having scientist involved early in the research and writing process would be most beneficial [for the production].” Both look forward to working with each other–both during rehearsals and during clinical consultation–to help ensure the play is as accurately representative as possible.
Along with Dr. Jim Evans, Jacqueline E. Lawton is also working with Ms. Robin Kirk of Duke’s Human Rights Center in order to understand the role humanitarians play when dealing with civil crises such as the war in Syria and the conflict in Nigeria. Jessie, one of the main characters of Among These Wild Things, works as a human rights emergency worker in Nigeria, a civil conflict that Lawton herself has actually taken great interest in researching and understanding.
“While I may never understand what allows such crimes to against humanity to take place–how human beings can do this to each other, I’d like to understand the work of those people who investigate war crimes and work to insure that some measure of justice is served.”
Jacqueline Lawton on the role of human rights work.
When asked why she considered theatre a good avenue through which to explore genetic and civil conflicts, Lawton answered, “When theatre artists, humanitarians, and scientists work together, we can promote scientific and cultural literacy. Doing so will not only break down the barriers that often exist between scientists and the public, but also encourage learning and curiosity.” By integrating social conflicts, science, and theatre, Professor Lawton believes that communities will be better equipped to safeguard human rights and prevent abuse.
“Have the courage to write plays that show the world the way you see and experience it. You’re the only one who can do that, which makes you essential to American Theatre.”
Jacqueline E. Lawton was also named one of the nation’s 30 leading black playwrights by Arena Stage’s American Voices New Play Institute, which will present a world premiere of her play Intelligence from February 24 – April 9. For more information about her productions and updates on Among These Wild Things, click here.