Playwright Rob Tennant on creating BOOKSMART for the 2015/16 Season

BSBOOKSMART receives its world premiere December 3-13, 2015 in partnership with The David Ross Fetzer Foundation for Emerging Artists, featuring Tyson Baker, Anne Brings, Joe Crinch, April Fossen and Sarah Young, directed by Jerry Rapier.

It took me a lot longer than most people to get a “real” job. Starting in high school, and continuing throughout my 20s into my early 30s, I worked in the service industry. A little retail, but mostly food service. I was a busboy, a waiter, and a restaurant manager. The work was lucrative enough and it fit into my lifestyle of squandering my youth on late nights and a lot of hanging out. It was fun.

It was also awful. Customer service is a constant assault on human dignity. I complained about it. A lot. I complained about the hours. I complained about the pay. I complained about what I perceived as a lack of influence on operations of the business itself. I complained about all kinds of things, but I never actually did anything about any of them. At least nothing productive. I didn’t have the resources. I didn’t have any support. I didn’t even know where to start, and all of that frustration was further demoralizing.

So now, I’ve been given the chance to finally do something about it: I’m having actors complain for me, on stage, to a paying audience. Progress!

BOOKSMARTSeriously though, these are serious issues. The concept of work in the U.S. is changing, but the need for people to receive just compensation for meaningful work has not changed. The minimum wage has less buying power than ever, leaving families with multiple full-time wage earners in poverty. The cost of education is skyrocketing, leaving most who grow up in poverty to stay in poverty, regardless of their abilities and ambition. The cost of life-saving medical treatment is bankrupting families, assuming consumer debt hasn’t already.

I still don’t know what to do about these things, so I wrote a play instead. And because I have a weird sense of humor, I made the play about these very serious issues as funny as I could and set it during the holiday rush because why not? A teaspoon of sugar helps jack not be a dull boy. Wait, is that right? Regardless, if nothing else I hope to spur conversations on these issues. If we keep talking about it, someone who can do something about it has got to hear us eventually.

BOOKSMART is Rob Tennant’s first play, the second recipient of the Plan-B Theatre grant from The David Ross Fetzer Foundation for Emerging Artists. Click here for more information and tickets (single and subscription)!

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