I was "inducted" into New Dramatists this fall, and as part of the New Playwrights Welcome, fellow resident playwright Kate Cortesi wrote the most amazing, humbling tribute to me. I don't know that I will ever be so honored in my life so I'm just going to post her beautiful words here on my blog:
AYA OGAWA. How lucky are the members of her audience. Lucky, and unprepared.
No sooner are you settled into the play you’re watching when her work goes: Hell nah! This isn’t the play you think it is! We’re in a different play! Keep up!
And so, you adjust your glasses, change your shoes, and run to catch up. You chase down a new cast, new country, new language, new problem... and just when you grab hold of this fresher, more wiggly experience... Aya throws another play at you.
But you’re wiser now. In better shape. So maybe you catch this one quick, trained by your education of the last hour. Or maybe you’re up and running... Maybe you’re growing again.
When the play is over, you have joined a living collage: disparate scraps do belong side-by-side—quilted together by Aya’s craftsmanship, your own brain, and what humans across languages and borders have in common.
It’s hard to think of a playwright who takes her audience more seriously. It’s hard to think of a playwright more committed to our senses of sight and sound while never letting up on our brains. In her work I am reminded that emotion and intellect are not dichotomous. In her vision, we think as passionately as we sing. We problem solve as intuitively as we embrace a child. We release words like breaths. And because we speak so relentlessly, our words fail, constantly, and brutally.
Her piece Oph3lia is about the reach and the limits of language. The path to connection is made of the exact same stuff as isolation. Both are always right here, a few tragic words away. In this play, translation is a dubious proposition, and the translator is fucked. This play contains the line, “It’s been over five years since I spoke out loud. Five years since I quit being human.” I was amazed that this playwright was able to convey this sense of languagelessness with language! And non-humanness with a live human! What a neat trick.
Here are some of the things I did in the audience of her 2015 Ludic Proxy:
I felt torn about leaving behind a town in Japan and homesick for a village in the Ukraine.
I voted on what happens next, and my vote was counted.
I experienced the English language as front-footed and Japanese as back-footed.
I felt confused, and that my confusion was in good hands.
I felt that environmental catastrophe, man made and otherwise, is eternal and in the face of
it, I am no more than a little bug.
I also felt humanity’s refusal to be a little bug. I found it noble and brave.
At Aya’s plays, you’ll hear music and behold something like dance. You will travel to places far away from each other. You will find humanity equally similar to Gods and insects.
I wish everyone in this room the exercise that is being in Aya’s audience. Her extraordinary mind will whip yours into shape and leave you bigger, smarter, looser, and more humane.