By Patricia Milton
Kate’s Superpower is a very short revenge play. I have found that revenge plots are popular with audiences for the vicarious satisfaction they provide. Most of us don’t go around in real life getting revenge, certainly --- so seeing revenge play out onstage can be a particularly joyful and liberating experience.
Brain-imaging and other scientific research studies have shown that for us humans, revenge is, in fact, quite sweet.
''The best way to understand revenge is not as some disease or moral failing or crime but as a deeply human and sometimes very functional behavior,'' said Dr. Michael McCullough, a psychologist at the University of Miami. ''Revenge can be a very good deterrent to bad behavior, and bring feelings of completeness and fulfillment.''
Retaliatory acts, anthropologists have long argued, help keep people in line where formal laws or enforcement do not exist. Before Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger, there was Alexander Hamilton, whose fatal duel with Aaron Burr was commemorated this month on the banks of the Hudson River. Recent research has shown that stable communities depend on people who have ''an intrinsic taste for punishing others who violate a community's norms,'' said Dr. Joseph Henrich, an anthropologist at Emory University in Atlanta.
What’s interesting is that while I was writing this short play, I was working in parallel on a full-length that takes the opposite tack: the characters consider revenge, then decide to abstain from taking it. (That play, Enemies, Foreign and Domestic, will debut at Central Works in February 2015.) Certainly the vast majority of Hollywood action movies depict revenge as not only morally acceptable, but morally required. I tend to reject revenge as a remedy for wrongs, although I believe strongly in justice and fairness. Is it possible that justice sometimes requires revenge?
Perhaps that’s the case with Kate. What do you think of revenge? I hope you’ll come see Kate’s Superpower, as part of SUPERHEROES, July 17, 19, 24, 31 August 2, 7, 14, 16, 21 Thursdays & Saturdays at Exit Theatre --- and let me know.
Patricia Milton's plays have been seen around the country, including Believers,Wily West Productions, 2012, and Reduction in Force, Central Works, 2011, and BardsTown Theatre, 2012. Her new full-length, Enemies, Foreign and Domestic, will premiere at Central Works in Berkeley, CA in February 2015. Moments of Truth, written with Caroline Altman, was a finalist for the 2013 Women In Arts and Media Collaboration Award. She is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild, Theatre Bay Area, International Centre for Women Playwrights, Playwrights Center (MN), and Playwrights Center of San Francisco. She is a resident playwright at Three Girls Theatre. In her "day job" she is a marketing superheroine. Thank you, David.
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