It is that dread question for all writers: where did you get your idea? But playwright Carl Sander was not only gracious about answering it, he even pinpointed the starting point, a question regularly asked at the Burke Museum.
His latest work “Why Do We Keep Broken Things” debuted this week at the Sandbox One-Act Festival. A former Washington State Artist in Residence, and a grant recipient from the Washington, King County, and Seattle Arts Commissions, Sander’s plays have appeared at Seattle Rep, ACT, and Seattle Children’s Theatre, among others. In “Why Do We Keep Broken Things,” he took the audience back to the 2011 Occupy Movement camped out in Westlake Park.
So what was the question that got you started on this play?
The former Director of Education at the Burke told me that the question children her ask the most is, ”Why do you keep broken things?” This lodged in my brain and, as I looked around, resonated in so many ways. Out came all these short scenes about friendships, jobs, civic infrastructure, really just everything. Always with this question sort of hanging in the background.
Any particular reason to set it in 2011 Seattle?
I find the culture of Seattle, both inspiring and maddening. It’s a very interesting place to observe people at work and play. It’s a culture that is certainly not whole or fixed or settled in any way, but constantly generating new pockets of creativity and then turning on itself, tearing up that model and trying something new.
Do you think this type of piece lasts beyond the movement that it portrays?
There are things in play that I’ve had to explain to the cast today: such as references to the “Human Microphone” and “Twinkling” from the Occupy movement. It’s very much a portrait of a time, and so it’s hard to say what will be strange to someone in the future. But the engine of the play is the relationships of the characters, and that won’t be alien to anyone.
You’re lurking in the alley with your fellow SOAPfest playwrights for your publicity photo – ever tempted to haul home a few broken things and keep them?
Oh I‘m sure I looked in those dumpsters if they weren’t locked, I’m a dumpster diver from way back, and an avid reuser of discarded materials. My house in Fremont was built in 1911 and as I’ve torn it apart and rebuilt it, I find lengths of golden, first cut, Douglas Fir which I bring to the surface and trim the rooms. I buy as much from the ReStore as from Home Depot.