CareLab: Kyle Bass Playwright, Assistant Professor of Theater, Colgate University, and Resident Playright, Syracuse Stage
CareLab Public Event Title: Screening of Citizen James and Playwright's Talk: "Conflict & Care: A Dramaturgy of Harm and Hope"
Mudd Center Partnership with the Department of Theater, Dance, and Film Studies and the Office of Inclusion and Engagment
Tuesday, February 14, 2023, 5:00-7:30: Stackhouse Theater
“Late in my play Citizen James, or the Young Man Without a Country, I paraphrase Baldwin, “I know one thing to be absolutely true: There is nothing more important than another human being. Absolutely nothing.” For me, this utterance embraces the ethos of care across lines of division--care for others “we disagree with or have been harmed by.” Baldwin cared deeply about the effects of hate upon the hater. His critical beneficence, his care for his white oppressor, who he was so deeply critical of, is at the center of his humanity, understanding, and insight, and his demand and hope for a more caring American society for us all. In my dramatic writing concerned with racial histories and historical figures, it is through a dramaturgy of conflict & care that I hope to arrive at the profounder truths and possibilities of the human heart.”
Kyle Bass's recent plays portray complex characters within specific historical contexts. He is interested in depicting truths of the past that resonate with our now. His play Citizen James is a one-man show on James Baldwin. The play was commissioned by Syracuse Stage, where Bass was the inaugural resident playwright, and it streamed nationally in 2021.
Through a NYSCA Individual Artist Grant, Professor Bass is currently under commission by Franklin Stage company for a new play titled Wakeman & Toliver. This play is set during the American Civil War and theatricalizes the experiences of two people from different (and not so different) backgrounds. Wakeman of the title was Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, a young white woman born in rural Upstate New York who disguised herself as a man and mustered into the Union Army, the 153rd New York State Volunteers, as Lyons Wakeman. Toliver was a young black man born into slavery in Virginia who escaped to New York, changed his name to avoid capture, and mustered into the Union Army's 26th Regiment of Colored Troops (NY). Toliver was/is Professor Bass's great-great-grandfather. While based in fact, the play is a work of dramatic fiction, the preferred form for considering truths.
Professor Bass's drama Tender Rain will receive its world premiere in Syracuse Stage's 22/23 season. Among many other full-length plays, Professor Bass wrote Possessing Harriet, which was commissioned by the Onondaga Historical Association, premiered at Syracuse Stage in 2018 and was published by Standing Stone Books. His libretto for Libba Cotten: Here This Day, a new opera based on the life of American folk music legend Libba Cotten, was commissioned by The Society for New Music and premiered in 2021.
With National Medal of Arts recipient Ping Chong, Professor Bass is the co-author of Cry for Peace: Voices from the Congo, which premiered at Syracuse Stage and was subsequently produced at La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York City. He is the co-author of the original screenplay for the film Day of Days (Broad Green Pictures, 2017), which stars award-winning veteran actor Tom Skerritt. He was the script consultant on Thoughts of a Colored Man, which premiered at Syracuse Stage in 2019 and opened on Broadway in 2021. He worked as dramaturg with acclaimed visual artist and MacArthur Fellow Carrie Mae Weems on her theatre piece Grace Notes: Reflections for Now.
Before joining the Department of Theater, Professor Bass served as the Burke Endowed Chair for Regional Studies at Colgate University. Previously, he was a faculty member at Goddard College, Syracuse University, and Hobart & William Smith Colleges. He was the 2019/20 Susan P. Stroman Visiting Playwright at the University of Delaware.
Professor Bass is a three-time recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship (for fiction in 1998, for playwriting in 2010, and for screenwriting in 2022) and was a finalist for the Princess Grace Playwriting Award and a nominee for the Pushcart Prize.
He holds a MFA in playwriting from Goddard College and a BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from the State University of New York at Fredonia.