I teach playwriting at The Acting Studio, founded by my friend James Price. Until last fall, I taught in the theatre part of the Studio, Chelsea Rep Lab, which John Grabowski runs. Last spring was the height of the stop-and-frisk controversy, so John had all the students write one-act plays on that theme. He or James (I don't remember which) suggested that I do, too. I was somewhat at a loss. I can always make things up, but what did I, a middle-aged white woman know about that first hand?
The closest I could muster was that in high school, I'd played Theresa Palancia, a shop lifter, in a video for the Cuyahoga County Criminal Justice System. When we were shooting in the juvenile detention center, I had a frantic five minutes where I was mixed in with the general population, wearing the uniform. I wasn't afraid of the other girls (maybe I should have been), I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get out.
And then I remembered that about ten years ago I was held for three hours in a British airport because they suspected me of being connected to the Irish Republican Army, or another Northern Ireland paramilitary group. It was not a pleasant experience. Considering the fact my father's family left Ireland during the worst famine in the 1840s, it was not terribly logical. That didn't stop the Department of Transport.
So I wrote about it. The play is far from autobiography- I had to do a fair amount of research, things are articulated that were not in my interview (I knew they were looking for plastic explosives in my suitcase- I didn't need to ask). There was a reading of Department of Transport at The Acting Studio last December, directed by Angelo Berkowitz. He's also directing the production at Gallery Players that goes up next week. Details to follow.