I’m giving a workshop in worldbuilding for playwrights! Come play with me!

Cartoon drawing of Melissa, a white woman with a red bob & black-framed glasses, wearing a fall-themed shirtwaist dress.
Cartoon drawing of Melissa, a white woman with a red bob & black-framed glasses, wearing a fall-themed shirtwaist dress.
4Art by Asia Ellington! I only own this dress in my dreams.

Worldbuilding isn’t something we talk about often in playwriting and screenwriting. It’s more common to writers of fictional prose, especially SF/F writers. Careful attention to worldbuilding, however, can level up your scripts significantly. Conversely, its lack can sink a piece, distancing or even confusing your audience.

When people give examples of excellent worldbuilding, they’re always rich, deeply crafted fantasy scapes like the Lord of the Rings films, NK Jemisin’s fiction, or Game of Thrones. When you ask people about worldbuilding in playwriting, people will offer high concept musicals like Wicked or Seussical. …


I have to admit I’m writing this piece as much for myself as I am for you. As a card-carrying Gen Xer, I’m a firm believer in KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! The more we know about Trump’s election lawsuits and claims of fraud, the easier it will be to see through his nonsense.


Everything is in flux, our future is uncertain, and we’ve never been more important.

Delacriox’s “Liberty Leading the People” with “The Arts” on her flag and “Remember Who You Are” below
Delacriox’s “Liberty Leading the People” with “The Arts” on her flag and “Remember Who You Are” below

Are we really that important?

The arts are always important, but they’re critical during cultural inflection points, and right now, the US is in a doozy. The GOP slide into authoritarianism is unraveling our democracy, emboldening racists, and pushing the horrific stance that everyone but the GOP base are “the enemy,” and, in the words of Eric Trump, “not even people.”

Republicans have radically shifted their approach to the problems facing our nation.

In the past, we discussed problems in terms of: “What do we do about this fact?” Republicans have altered the terms of the debate to: “What is true?” They dismiss factual evidence by claiming that the source of that evidence is liberal — “the enemy.” The circular logic is dizzying — they claim that publishing a “fake news” story is “proof” that a source has a “liberal bias” while simultaneously claiming that the “proof” that the story is “fake news” is that it comes from a “liberal” source. Only stories that confirm their world view — no matter how outlandish or contradictory — can be “true,” and all stories that contradict their world view, no matter how well supported by evidence, are “fake news.” …


Republicans begin the scramble to distance themselves from the sinking failboat that is Donald Trump.

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I’ve long said that GOP politicians will stand by Trump, no matter how criminal, dangerous, or simply bizarre his behavior is, until the exact second he becomes a political liability. Well, we’re two weeks away from the election, and Republican after Republican — especially Congressional Republicans in tight races — have been tentatively testing the waters of dissent with a few mild, safe criticisms for weeks. Now they’re either arranging for their “private dissent” to be leaked or are publicly stating that they were secretly “concerned” all along as they begin the scramble to distance themselves from the sinking failboat that is Donald Trump. …


Donald Trump knows as well as any racist and sexist what it means to call a mixed-race female Senator a “monster.”

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All images of Senator Harris are from her Senate website, harris.senate.gov.

There’s a lot going on today. The FBI caught a white militia in an attempt to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, evidently believing they were carrying out Trump’s orders to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN.” Trump’s team is throwing a tantrum over the Commission on Presidential Debates’ decision to make the next debate virtual due to Trump and his team being contagious with a dangerous virus. In an astonishingly dimwitted move, the campaign released a letter denouncing CPD for “trying to protect Joe Biden” (and, one assumes, themselves and everyone who works at the venue). Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) tweeted that he’s against democracy because it “thwarts liberty, peace, and prospefity.” …


This isn’t about seeing your enemies suffer — that implies that both parties are on equal footing.

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Trump demanded to be taken on a joy ride to greet supporters gathered outside Walter Reed on Sunday, Oct. 4. All Secret Service in the car with him had to go into a 14 day quarantine. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour; Wikimedia Commons)

While Trump is unique in many ways — we’ve never had an American president who has such obvious disdain for the rule of law and such active hatred for the majority of voters — in many ways he’s as ordinary as they come. He’s a privileged, pampered, narcissistic bully who’s enthusiastically interested in using his power and privilege to harm others for personal gain. …


There’s even a special email address to turn in your coworkers for “un-American” diversity trainings.

I’ve been job hunting for months. As someone with many years of teaching experience under my belt, I have alerts set for education-related positions on several job sites. The entire time I’ve been searching, I’ve been seeing job postings from the FBI looking for “experienced teachers.” Here’s a screenshot of an ad I found on LinkedIn in June. It says they’re “no longer accepting applications,” but this same ad has been reposted many times targeting cities all over the US.

A LinkedIn Job posting for “Special Agent: Education/Teaching” from the FBI
A LinkedIn Job posting for “Special Agent: Education/Teaching” from the FBI

Here are a few screenshots from LinkedIn that show some of the breadth of the FBI recruitment of…


“Historical accuracy” isn’t an excuse to shut out actors of color. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite.

A Black man in a white tunic blows a horn. He’s barefoot & stands among flowers; his white headband ties blow  in a breeze.
A Black man in a white tunic blows a horn. He’s barefoot & stands among flowers; his white headband ties blow  in a breeze.
Detail from the Kalender of the Shepherdes, 1490s, Paris

Well, they’re at it again! This time they want to take away our precious American and European heritage with their aggressively political casting. The snowflakes are whining about diversity (as usual). They’re insisting that historical films, TV shows, and plays be cast with no regard to historical accuracy.

They’re insisting that shows about Western history be cast with all white actors.

All jokes aside, whatever era in western history in which your production is set, I assure you that people of color were there. “Historical accuracy” is not an excuse for turning away BIPOC actors; in fact, historical accuracy should compel you to cast them. …

About

Bitter Gertrude

PhD, PWD, D&D DM, and lifelong educator & theatremaker now working as a JEDI consultant (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion).

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