blackbirdonline journalFall 2018  Vol. 17 No. 2

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Introduction & Table of Contents

Aaron Elmore & Allison Holtkamp
 Aaron Elmore & Allison Holtkamp
 Perseverance Theatre 
 Photo by Joshua Lowman
  Playwright’s Notes
Director’s Commentary
The Arsonists

Jacqueline Goldfinger’s The Arsonists begins in the aftermath of an arson attempt gone awry. The two central characters are a father, H, and his daughter, M. The play opens in a cabin in rural Florida to a distressed M burying a bloody bundle of cloth beneath the floorboards. Shortly thereafter, H emerges from beneath the floor “a little bloody but intact.” As the play progresses, we learn that H has died during the arson attempt but remains in the physical world because parts of his body have been left at the fire.

At its core, The Arsonists deals with coming to terms with the things we cannot control. As H puts it, “There’s always somethin’ more than you, Littles.” However, the play recognizes a condition of more overarching importance than this lesson, as Goldfinger explores her characters’ need to learn how to move into grief and eventually to find a path beyond it.

Fire, music, longing, and lamentation demand much of the space in the play. Particularly lots and lots of fire. We usually associate fire with romantic passion, so it is unusual that The Arsonists utilizes fire to convey the love and companionship between a father and daughter. Toward the end of the play, H says that there is “a fire in yourself so deep that you can’t reach it without someone else . . . otherwise you burn cold, no air, no breath to feed the flames.” Now that H has died, however, the fire within M must divert to someone else. M’s mother, before her death, had stoked this fire within H, and H goes on to say that his wife was Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos to him: “creator of my life . . . measurer of my life . . . my final destiny.”

The Arsonists is very much a love letter to Goldfinger’s father. She reminds us in her Playwright’s Notes that “too many people wait too long to tell those that they love how much they love them, and oftentimes never get to express their love fully.” The play evokes this sense of melancholy and heartfelt sentiment without entering the world of melodrama. Through the relationship between a father and daughter, The Arsonists reminds us to cherish those close to us, to tell those we love how much we love them, and to do so often.

Through the National New Play Network’s Rolling World Premiere Program, The Arsonists premiered at four theaters in one year: Azuka Theatre, directed by Allison Heishman; Capital Stage, directed by Gail Dartez; Perseverance Theatre, directed by Art Rotch; and Know Theatre, directed by Tamara Winters. Blackbird presents the play in one act with an accompanying statement from the playwright and photos from Azuka Theatre and Perseverance Theatre performances.  bug

   Contributor’s notes

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