Although it was written five years ago, elements of “How to Catch Creation,” the newest play showing at Geva Theatre Center, connect to the travails of today.
“I mean, it’s chock full of so many things that connect,” says Cedric Mays, actor. “The mass incarceration of Black men and women, women’s liberation and choosing what to do with their bodies and their minds, the issue of sexuality and gender, and of course, at the heart of it, the pressures a Black artist may face.”
The play explores the efforts of four artists in San Francisco, each struggling with the concept of creative authenticity. Their lives become entangled through the work of a queer author from the 1960s which challenges their understandings of justice, love, and loyalty.
“Whether you are an artist practicing your medium or a person crafting your life, the act of creation is a powerful step in manifesting the vision you hold for yourself—be it creating a family, a work of art, or an idea,” says Director Daniel Bryant. “This play takes us on an inspiring and sometimes drama-filled journey of six individuals and the struggles they face within themselves and the outside world, as they take courageous steps toward expanding their lives and catching creation.”
Mays plays the character of Griffin, a man previously sentenced to prison on a false accusation, who now wants a child through adoption or surrogacy.
“The injustice of our prison system is that it wasn’t set up to reform anyone. You see other countries where, if someone does something bad or there’s an addiction problem, it’s not about incarceration, but about, ‘Let’s find out why this person is this way so we can help them,’” Mays says.
“How to Catch Creation” also highlights creativity in LGBTQ voices through queer characters who provide their own perspectives on the themes of the play.
In addition, the characters are connected by the works of a fictional feminist author, GK Marche. The concept for Marche was inspired by Black writers such as Alice Walker, bell hooks, and Pat Parker, a lesbian poet who lived in the Bay area.
“I feel Black women, specifically, have a history of being erased in terms of their literary contributions in America’s literature,” says Christina Anderson, the Harper Lee Award-winning playwright of “How to Catch Creation.” “In a lot of ways that’s true for women of color in general, so I think the most important part is to keep these women’s voices alive and active and circulating.”
According to a 2017 study by the Dramatists Guild, women of color authored nearly 7 percent of newly published plays. White men, on the other hand, were responsible for more than 60 percent of plays that year.
Anderson’s work was originally included in the Kilroys’ List, an annual industry survey of new plays by women, trans, and non-binary playwrights intended to end the underrepresentation of those groups in the American theater world. Including “How to Catch Creation,” Anderson has appeared on the list, which was started in 2014, three times.
Although the topics of “How to Catch Creation” might seem culturally specific, the play has universal appeal, Mays believes.
“Theater is one of the last tools we have that is an exercise in empathy,” he says. “Everyone deals with heartbreak. Everyone deals with getting a raw deal and picking up the pieces of their life. Open those empathy muscles and go on the ride with us.”
“As we return to the theater now, I think we’re in a place to do really tremendous work on the American stage if we commit to equity,” Mays continues. “Empathy starts with conversations and plays like this, ones with ambivalent meanings and good writing (that) spark the most valuable types of conversations.”
Mays’ prior experience with Geva included the role of Frederick Douglass in “The Agitators” in 2017.
“How to Catch Creation” will run through March 20.