sponsored by: erin ogletree
"You see me? You see me? My flesh is rotting. My flesh-"
Olivia Ridley is a New Jersey-based writer and a current senior . In 2018, her play SLUSH, which explored the similarly topical issue of assisted suicide, was selected to be performed at Luna Stage in NJ. Though she is deeply passionate about playwriting, she has a more extensive background as a performer, working primarily with Vanguard Theater Company in NJ, and most recently with Seth Rudetsky’s PLAYS IN THE HOUSE (Teen Edition). And her passions extend beyond theater; she loves writing/performing slam poetry when she can, and enjoys political science and debate as well. In her art, Olivia hopes to expose the nuance of “taboo” topics and spark much needed conversation, seeking to educate not only the audience, but herself as well in the process.
Propelled by the urgency of his own decay and desperate to be heard, BLACK BOY delivers his “villain’s monologue” - a parting speech typically delivered to a hero before their death - to his audience held at gunpoint.
Get to Know Olivia
When did you start writing? What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
Ever since I was in elementary school, creative writing assignments were always my favorite in school; I’d always spend too much time writing these overly complicated, too-long writing pieces (plus I was better at those than I was at math). Over the years I developed a deep passion for the humanities, and the types of pieces I’d write began to diversify.
In terms of what influences my writing, I really love writing or its communication aspect, and the opportunity it brings for education and conversation. In terms of who, Toni Morrison’s work is some of my favorite on the planet, and certainly inspires a lot of what I do. I also deeply admire the writing/poeticism of Daveed Diggs (clippng.) and various French philosophers :).
How did you come to write your #ENOUGH play? Given that there are many dimensions to the issue of gun violence, what aspect did you focus on and why?
I’ve always been fascinated by the nuance of the gun violence issue and really thought it was an extremely pertinent issue to acknowledge and discuss, as it is an incredibly complicated problem to solve and understand. I think this convolution is born from the fact that, instead of being one, single, isolated issue, gun violence is rather the sum of a multitude of other, equally intense issues (like poverty, class, race, mental illness, crime, etc.). The solutions we seek for gun violence cannot only deal with guns; they must be complex, far-reaching solutions extending into several other facets of this problem (however, gun control is certainly a great place to start!).
In this piece, I wanted to bring forth this nuance, as well as explore some of these other, hidden facets of the issue, and though I pose no clear solution, I hope to incite much needed conversation and change.
What other issues or subjects do you care deeply about that you wish you saw on stage more? Why is this issue important for you?
I think just in general, plays may have the tendency to be oversimplified and made easily digestible in order to appeal to wider audiences; I wish this nuance and complexity was more readily welcomed by the playwriting and performing world. That said, I think some plays do an incredible job with this and there are countless brilliantly written plays that are so beautifully strange and nuanced, so it's encouraging to see progress in that respect :).
If you could write a play or story that represented the future you want to be a part of, what would it look like?
It would be a play about conversations and connection, about genuine understanding despite differences, with a completely diverse cast in race, sexuality, mental health, abilities, etc. It would be a show accessible to all, regardless of location or how much an audience member could pay.
What are some of your favorite plays?
Keeping with the theme, I LOVED Officer Hour by Julia Cho; it was a chilling piece that really captured the complexity of the gun violence issue and was a major influence to the play I wrote :).
What will your next play be about?
Something likely to do with human connection and its complexities. That has always been one of my favorite subjects and topics to explore :).