In Clare Barron's play Dance Nation, an army of pre-teen competitive
dancers plot to take over the world. A play about ambition, growing up and how
to find our souls in the heat of it all.
LWT: Can you talk about the inspiration for the play? Barron: I wrote this play because I wanted to explore ambition and how that intersects with gender. I was also interested in self-perpetuated ideas of destiny, and our ability (and other people in our lives ability) to determine our fate just by naming us: she's amazing at this; he needs to work on that. I still remember deciding that I "wasn't a writer" for years and years because of something a teacher said to me that made me think I wasn't good at it. The power of that kind of interaction - whether it's positive or negative, and whether it's coming from someone you look up to or from inside your own head - fascinates me. More literally, I was inspired by Dance Moms -- a horrific reality TV show where a grown woman verbally abuses and bullies pre-teen girls and everyone's kind of okay with it (also known for spawning the likes of Maddie Ziegler aka the brilliant dancing girl in Sia's music video). And my own background in dance.
LWT: Do the themes in the play appear in other things you’ve written? Barron: Not on purpose! But yes. Questions of fate, shame, and repressed rage keep popping up in what I write. I also am always writing about the body (in all its gruesomeness and transcendence) and trying to represent it honestly.
LWT: What or who as a writer inspires you? Barron: Right now I am pretty inspired by Beyoncé and Rihanna.
LWT: Does being an actor inform the way you write? Barron: Yes, I think so. I write things that I would like to act in -- highly rhythmic and verbal monologues. Lots of crazy physical business. (I think like a lot of kids I was spellbound by acting because it let me do forbidden, insane things like stand on tables and spit in people's face and fall in love.) The more I make work the more I consider the entire physical and aural theatrical experience as I'm writing the play, and I think that comes, in part, from all the years I spent on my feet in a rehearsal room acting.