BPT Talks: a tiny q&a with Caity-Shea Violette

Caity-Shea Violette


BPT’s 2020-21 season of new plays—thesis plays by our cohort of third-year playwrights—has been postponed until next year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In the meantime, all five plays are currently being workshopped in collaboration with our friends at BU’s College of Fine Arts School of Theatre. A series of conversations about these plays, BPT Talks, will be held this fall via the videoconferencing tool Zoom. BPT Talks will convene on Zoom each Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m. (with the exception of Election Day, Nov. 3) until Nov. 24.

On Oct. 27, we’ll talk about Caity-Shea Violette’s new play Rx Machina, which she describes this way:

Rx Machina unpacks big pharma’s impact on everyday American culture and illuminates the search for humanity in a healthcare system that views patients as consumers and pain as profitable. An ambitious pharmaceutical sales representative’s relentless pursuit of a rigidly principled pain management doctor leads to an intoxicating, forbidden relationship that comes with a cost. Ethical boundaries are blurred in a literal manifestation of doctors being in bed with drug reps that forms a love triangle fueled by money, sex, and power. Set in 2015, two years before the federal government would officially recognize it as the Opioid Epidemic, Rx Machina explores who gets to get better and who gets left behind.

We asked Caity-Shea to share a little bit more about her play, and influences on her writing life:

What inspired your thesis play?
I spent my late teens and early twenties living with a chronic pain disorder that no one could explain, which meant I spent a lot of time in various doctor’s offices and pain management clinics in the decade leading up to our national recognition of the opioid epidemic. I also have a family member who works in pain management, so I’ve had the opportunity to live inside of this big national crisis in a unique way and see the everyday impact of it on people muddling through a broken system trying to do the best they can. As the theme of this play is so often talked about in massive statistics that can be hard to identify with, I wanted to emphasize the humanity of these characters and how they’re shaped by the system.

Why this play? Why now?
In addition to the national conversation about the need for healthcare reform in this country, this play also explores how we cope with various types of pain and reckoning with the addictions our society rewards. I swear to god it’s funny too.

Who is your favorite playwright? What about this person’s work resonates with you?
You can’t ask me to choose just one! I love trauma-informed plays that are equally funny and tender and poignant, and explore themes of gender, sexuality, female friendships, and intergenerational trauma. Some current favorites coming to mind include: The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe, Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee, Mala by Melinda Lopez, How To Separate Your Soul from Your Body (in ten easy steps!) by Bryna Turner, Queen by Madhuri Shekhar, and of course, How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel.

What writing rituals do you have? What is your routine?
I have a few sensory items that help me connect with going into writing mode. I light a candle, wear something cozy, do a quick guided meditation, and then I listen to this app that has lots of pre-recorded nature and white noise sounds that you can mix together. It’s typically used to help people fall asleep, but they also have tones played at certain frequencies to stimulate particular brain waves. My current writing jam is a combo of tones at frequencies that stimulate alpha and gamma waves layered over the sound laundry tumbling in a dryer. I recognize that list took a sharp turn from kind of basic to full robot, but I’ve trained my brain to associate that sound with deep writing and it’s honestly weirdly effective.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Pre-COVID, I’d love to go antiquing, take day trips to weird roadside attractions with my fiancé, and hang with our two cats Walter and Henry and our two geckos Bean and Grimsby. Now it’s mostly cats, geckos, and a whoooole lot of podcasts. 2020 has been a banner year for house pets and absolutely no one else.

We hope you’ll join us on Oct. 27 to talk about Rx Machina! You’ll need the Zoom app (it’s free!) to participate, and it is recommended you call in a few minutes before “curtain” time. The Zoom link will be available here (scroll down); click here to learn more about the full BPT Talks line-up.