When I started writing Murder, We Spoke, I wanted to explore my personal fascination with true crime. What was it about this genre that compelled me to watch, investigate, snoop, dig, research? Over the course of three years, the podcast series developed and evolved into a much larger question, why true crime now?
If you were to do a basic Google search and start typing, “Why is true…” Google search will auto populate the following:
WHY TRUE CRIME ALWAYS
As I continued to workshop and rewrite Murder, We Spoke, the question of, is it nature or nurture, kept popping into my head. We often hear this question when we dive into the psyche of serial killers. But, maybe, we should apply this question to the history of humanity. As Marcus Parks from the popular comedy, true crime podcast, Last Podcast on the Left, likes to remind folks – it’s not, “Why true crime now?” It’s “Why true crime always?”
Of course, there are folks – majority of those that identify as women – that say they consume true crime content to educate themselves. After all, the sad truth is the majority of victims in true crime narratives are often women (as well as people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community). True crime helps women understand what’s going on inside the mind of a criminal and possibly learn new techniques that will keep them safe.
I know that for myself, there is a soothing component to educating myself to the horrors of violence that surround me. I feel better prepared to spot red flags, defend myself, and avoid becoming a victim. (Yes, I know this last statement is a truly dark, sad reflection of current society, and shouldn’t be something that I NEED to educate myself on, but hey, that’s just the reality we live in right now. Another blog post for another time.)
DECAPITATION, DISEMBOWELMENT, CANNIBALISM, OH MY!
But I would be lying if I said my true crime intrigue ended with education. There is something inside me that is a little darker…a little more insidious. I guess that is really why I started writing Murder, We Spoke – to tap into the darkness inside me that compels me to learn about every gruesome detail of a crime. Decapitation, disembowelment, cannibalism, oh my! I’m grossed out, I’m appalled, I’m…hooked?
Where did this grotesque gremlin inside of me come from? As I poured over the initial question of, “why true crime always,” I didn’t find an exact answer into the psychology of consuming violence (there are a ton of theories out there). But I did discover that throughout human history, true crime and violence has always been a form of entertainment for people around the world. Public executions, the violent spectacles inside of the Roman Colosseum or during the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, burning people at the stake, beheadings, hangings, on and on and on throughout history. And the one thing all these violent acts had in common (other than pain and death) is the audience. All of these “events” had spectators come from near and far to watch as another human being’s life perished in front of their eyes. Some of these “events” even charged admission!
Now, would I pay to watch someone be publicly executed? HELL NO! But, I do pay for Netflix and my watch history is filled with every true crime documentary imaginable. So, I guess, Murder, We Spoke, isn’t so much about whether true crime is good or bad. It is an exploration into our relationship with violence. Attraction, arousal, curiosity, education? I think it is a very personal answer for everyone. But no matter what the answer is, violence is a part of reality (sadly). Maybe, we are all just trying to find ways we can control it.
The first workshop series of Murder, We Spoke wrapped in early September, 2022. For many in the cast, this was the first time reading the series in full. There were a lot of...reactions during the workshop. Click through the Zoom chats from our closed rehearsals.
What is a Dramaturg?
Dramaturg. Dramaturge. However you choose to spell it. According to Wikipedia, a dramaturg, “Is a literary adviser or editor in a theatre, opera, or film company who researches, selects, adapts, edits, and interprets scripts, libretti, texts, and printed programs (or helps others with these tasks), consults authors, and does public relations work.”
What Does a Dramaturg do?
Being a dramaturg is quite frankly, not for the weak of heart. They hold the balance of the wants, needs, and ideas of the production with the playwright's wants, needs, and ideas for the story. They make sure the playwright’s voice is heard and the integrity of the script is preserved even if that means protecting the play from the playwright themselves.
Here is where the dramaturg earns their stripes. They confront us head-on and say, “Hey! I see where you are trying to go, but this isn’t the path.” That is exactly what happened to me during the workshop of Murder, We Spoke. Director/dramaturg/new play warrior, Lila Rachel Becker, stopped me dead in my tracks.
In fact, these conversations are only difficult if we - the playwrights - make them that way. Yes, this is your work. Yes, these are your words. Yes, you created the world. Yes, these are your characters, your story. You put in the time, talent, and imagination to write this thing…but you know what? Drafts suck. That’s why they are called “drafts.” But that isn’t a bad thing! It doesn't mean the play is bad. It doesn't mean the story shouldn’t be told. It doesn’t mean you’re NOT talented. All it means is that you got lost on your way. Now, drop your ego, admit you need help, and trust the person that wants this story told as much as you - the dramaturg.
A Playwright's Advocate
I’m really trying not to spoil anything in Murder, We Spoke, but I want to take this time to say thank you to Becker. Her ability to cut through the weeds, meet me on my path, and advocate for the best way to tell this story is invaluable to me. Under her guidance, this series is confidently stepping into its next phase of development. I can’t wait to share with you all the hard-work and brilliance of her direction and dramaturgy.
The next stage of workshops is happening in mid-October. I hope you continue on this journey with me and learn more about the amazing artists involved in Tantrum East’s Murder, We Spoke.
Learn more about Lila Rachel Becker and get her on your future production team!
About the Blog
I write plays. I tell stories. I create content. I vent. I offer advice. I hope people will learn from my mistakes.