Having James Still as the IRT playwright-in-residence is a real game-changer for the theatre, and for those of us in the audience when he writes or directs, a distinct pleasure. You can see and hear in his Indiana series plays his finely tuned ear and compassionate heart for the people and history he writes about. He knows a lot about us Hoosiers through his close associations here, and he also sees us from his perspective as an international traveler with far-reaching connections and insights. So we get the best of both worlds in his writing and directing: here is someone who knows us, even in some ways is one of us, yet observes us and can help us see and understand ourselves in new and perceptive ways.
And when James explores characters and worlds beyond ours, his imaginative works – from the time travel in Appoggiatura to his reimagining Mary Todd Lincoln’s private grief in The Widow Lincoln – help us imagine those worlds, too. We experience the range of human emotions through his humor, poignant dialog, and exploration of guilt and redemption, yearning and fulfillment, fear and the sweet comfort of love and security.
Getting to know James behind the scenes has been especially fun and rewarding. In Washington, D.C., we heard about his in-depth Lincoln research and his inspiration for The Heavens are Hung in Black. In Indianapolis, we learned the background of his three-part look at one family, culminating in the thrilling Miranda. We love so much about James – his work, his kindness, his gentle sense of humor. And it’s clear that both IRT and we as play goers are the richer for knowing him these past 20 years.