Savage Wonder episode 21 with guest Shairi Engle. Our first veteran playwright - finally! There are a few reasons it took us a while to finally book a veteran playwright. The biggest reason is that I didn't want to book someone whose play was under consideration in our playwrighting competitions. Fortunately for this episode, Shairi has been too busy with residencies and work to submit any work, so I felt free and clear to book her for the show. And I'm glad I did.
Shairi first came to my attention when I saw she won AITAF's Bridge Award in 2019 for her play Tampons, Dead Dogs and Other Disposable Things. In judging Shairi's work, some guy named Tony Kushner called it "...a tough, disturbing, enraging, consistently surprising, smart, very funny and ultimately moving and revelatory play. It's a powerful, unsparing exploration of the nature of traumatic memory that fully and bravely confronts intractability while discovering within despair an ambiguous but possible opportunity to hope. The writing is rich and vivid, the characters are original and unpredictable, and it's propelled dramatically, through conflict and action, with a deeply serious purpose. Central to the play is a device that almost never succeeds; I won't specify what the device is, because flat description can't do justice to the deft way Ms. Engle handles it or the theatricality and meaning she derives from it. The play is marvelously stageworthy, but it's also literature, written to be read - that understanding of playwriting is rarer than it should be, and encountering a playwright who gets it is an occasion to rejoice."
Clearly, not an impressive piece of work.
But even more impressive than her work is her story. I had no idea what an emotional reservoir Shairi draws from until she spoke honestly, transparently and with unsparing self-awareness and compassion. This is a great one.
Follow Shairi Engle on IG