Playwright Rachel Bykowski is the winner of SETC’s Charles M. Getchell New Play Contest dedicated to the discovery, development and publicizing of worthy new plays. Enjoy the following Q&A interview with Bykowski about the story behind her winning play, 25 Light Years From Now.
Q: What was your reaction to winning the Getchell Award?
Bykowski: I was surprised and re-energized. Often times when I submit to competitions, I use it as an excuse to “make an introduction.” I want the committee to get to know my work and get used to seeing my name. Then, if I continue to submit, hopefully they will remember me and watch my writing evolve over time, which might result in a win much later down the road. When I got the phone call, I was in the process of tucking 25 Light Years From Now in a drawer, promising to return again, maybe, in the future. Winning the award invigorated me to get back into the play and start reshaping it.
Q: How did you come to write 25 Light Years From Now?
Bykowski: Recently with my writing, I have been drawn to the idea of legacy and how women contribute to legacies in their families. I’m especially drawn to matriarchies and mother/daughter relationships. I feel in the old canon of plays, we heard about fathers and sons shaping their heritage, and the women were often relegated to the kitchens or tucked neatly away in living room corners giving advice and side commentary. I wanted to write a play about women being in the forefront, out of the house, going on adventures and creating their own paths.
I knew I wanted this play to be about mothers and daughters. As children, we ignore the fact that our mothers are more than just “mothers.” I often fall into the trap of asking myself, “Who was my mother before I came along?” Placing my ego first, ahead of the woman who gave me life. As if my existence is far more important than hers. So important, in fact, that it is now through my existence she MUST redefine herself. This way of thinking is essentially “othering” my own mother. What I should be asking is, “Who has my mother always been?” Now, I have the chance to share in her life journey.
I thought about the question, “What links generations?” Out popped the dark answer of war. I specifically chose World War I, World War II and Vietnam because I felt those generations of women viewed each of those wars differently. However, for me personally, the effect war can have on people is the same.
War can make people feel brave, determined and unified, but it can also trigger fear, remorse and regret. I thought about those conflicting emotions and slowly a love story began to form. What if your loved one was so determined to achieve a goal you adamantly opposed? Could you support them? Would you still be there for them? Josie deserts Fran and, 25 years later, Josie still wonders what her life would have been like if she had stayed.
A staged reading of 25 Light Years From Now by Rachel Bykowski will be held Friday, February 28, 2020 as part of the 71st annual SETC Convention in Louisville, KY. The reading will be immediately followed by an in-depth response session and critique.