Headlands Center for the Arts

Elaine Romero

arizona | writing
Artist in Residence Program 2018

Artist Statement

I do not know when I became a political playwright. I suspect I always was. None of my characters escape the moment history has selected for them. I had written short plays about war, Revolutions/Revoluciones (NYC, LA, Panama City), a short version of A Work of Art (Chicago), and a short version of my proposed play (Denver, Boston, Sydney). I was sitting in an interview at a recording studio at the Australian Broadcasting Network when someone said, “We never thought an American would be critical of the bomb.” I realized the work could no longer remain a 10-minute play. I decided to work my way backward in time to the moment of the atomic bomb. I remained haunted by the firsthand account of a woman I met in Japan who had survived the bombing of Nagasaki. I caught a glimpse of her keloid scars when I was just 19.

While At Headlands

While at Headlands, I will go deep inside to write the final play of my trilogy, The U.S. at War, Sticks and Stones. The trilogy works backward in time: the war in Afghanistan (Graveyard of Empires), Vietnam (A Work of Art), World War II. The second play was inspired by the loss of my uncle, a Marine, in Vietnam. I said goodbye to him in Monterey before he was shipping out. I’m not able to express what that means in this moment—perhaps the plays do that. I grew up close to my grandfather, an Iwo Jima veteran who was so proud of having been a Marine, as he moved through the world in perfect English and perfect Spanish. Each play asks a question. Sticks and Stones asks what we ask countries (ourselves) to absorb when they (we) commit atrocities during war?

Selected Texts

Forbidden Points, 2017 (187.37K)

Graveyard of Empires, 2015 (288.45K)

Modern Slave, 2017 (743.70K)