KT: What was the inspiration for Black Sky?
ALA: Whew, there’s a lot behind this – this play started with me challenging myself to write a play set in the future, since up until that point a lot of my work dealt with history. I had also just moved to California from Virginia, and was working through a lot of Northern Virginia culture, which is centered around tech and defense. I was also exploring the womb, since I had recently given birth to two kids in the past year and was reflecting and healing from my experience with the medical-industrial complex.
How has the inspiration for this play evolved over time?
I’m fortunate to have workshopped this play with the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, James Madison University’s Madison New Works Lab in Harrisonburg, VA, Relative Theatrics in Laramie, WY, and Parity Productions in New York City. Over the years and in different spaces, it’s beautiful to see what different parts of the play speak to people, whether it’s issues of gender/sexuality, reproductive politics, toxic work cultures, apocalypses, teenage femmes, or disconnect over love and bodies. The ending has certainly changed multiple times!
How did you begin constructing the relationships between the characters in this play?
I have a close group of girlfriends from high school who I’m still super tight with, and I notice how my language, gestures, and attitudes change when we’re all together. I love the banter and teasing between young women – it’s a totally different language register and cultural experience. I took inspiration from different relationships and anecdotes I had in high school and college to inspire these characters and their motivations.
During your process with Relative Theatrics, you revised some of the gendered language in the play: why? How do the characters and the story benefit from this change?
Most of the gendered language was referring to “girls”, “guys”, and “dudes.” I decided to take that language out for now since the conversations we’ve been having around gender and sexual identity have strongly been impacting our language, and while there could be arguments made for teenagers still using those words in the future, I figured it was a rabbit hole I didn’t want to run down for now. I’d say this focuses the characters and stories much more, allowing an audience to focus on their relationships and journeys instead of bumping up against linguistics.
Many of the characters discuss bodily autonomy, specifically surrounding reproductive health. Did this theme pose any challenges or surprising avenues when writing?
Not particularly – this is such a rich area to discuss, that it felt easy and good to be able to talk about wombs and uteruses and what they mean in different symbolic contexts of power and femininity.
In your synopsis you ask the question: how do we grow up in a world that is falling apart? Do you think your play provides any answers to this question?
I think my play poses different answers and asks the audience to discuss it after they leave the theater!
What discussions do you hope are sparked by audiences after they watch Black Sky? What do you want the audience to leave with?
I hope the audience leaves discussing what pressures we put on young women, as well as discussing what our standards are for success in the world. Are we asking our young femmes to live up to toxic masculine ideals? How insidious is patriarchy in our world, that it asks women to live up to men’s standards, and what are the consequences of not slowing down? I hope these are questions that come up for audiences as they contemplate this play.