Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    Theatre dept. spotlights ‘Dogeaters’ playwright in laney writer’s workshop

    Jessica Hagedorn, a best-selling novelist and playwright from the Philippines, visited Michael Torres’ script-analysis class on Feb. 8.
    There, she gave us a little more juicy information about her play “Dogeaters,” based on the book of the same name and left the air open for questions. The play opened Feb. 3 at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco. 
    One student asked where the name “Dogeaters” derived from. Hagedorn said that the name is a pejorative for the natives who lived on Luzon. It was given to them by American troops in the Philippines during World War II.
    Many Filipinos may be dissuaded against going to watch the play because of the negative connotation of the play’s name. The play is set in Manila, Hagedorn’s birthplace.
    Most of the play is in Tagalog but regardless, the repetition of words and the music playing in the background helps the audience understand. While her actors improvise quite a lot, they do have their limits. One of the recurring themes in the play is “grappling with shame.” Because the play is a diluted view of the history of Luzon, the play raises a lot of controversy.
    Hagedorn explains that in her last showing, many Filipino people were angry. She retaliated by saying, “If I’m afraid of it, it must be worth doing.” 
    One student, Sylvia Martinez, asked, “What piece of conventional wisdom about playwriting have you found to be helpful?”
    “Conflict,” Hagedorn said, “and desire as a driving force. Someone always wants something.” 
    Hagedorn talks about how realistic she tries to make her characters. She says that she wants her characters to be capable of anything, no matter how weird. Why? Because people are weird. 
    One student, a creative writer, asked, “When you write, do your characters tell you what to say?” Hagedorn responded by saying, “Sometimes the other characters help me channel a special character. In the novel I knew the background information of the characters, but you can’t do that in a play, because the characters aren’t as fully developed and the audience doesn’t necessarily know those details.” 
    She goes on to talk about the process on how she feels channels her characters. Most times, Hagedorn was unsure what exactly her characters were going to do, so she had to follow a certain narrative. “This is important in playwriting,” she said. 
    Something interesting about her thought process was the act of washing dishes. She finds this almost meditative whenever she is in a slump. She finds that a lot of her thinking comes from watching the dishes become clean.
    It is problem-solving time for her. According to Hagedorn, to create characters with whom you have nothing in common, it is important to have empathy and a deadline.
    “Panicking is part of it,” she said, “you can’t minimize the work. All of us have important work to do.” 
    It’s safe to say that Hagedorn brought a one-of-kind of experience to Laney. From talking about the controversial implications her play brought to how she develops characters, it was an insightful evening. 
    “Dogeaters” has been known to challenge the audience to an extent that it is okay to not understand everything. It has been called not just a play, but an experience.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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