Winter Stars, the first 10-minute play in Sonia Barkat’s collection, though marked as tragedy, has me considering the possibilities there are in conflict.
First, it’s the playwright’s opening note on “the most important thing.”
The setting of this play is described in detail, but if it must be altered for a stage performance, the most important thing is that the feeling of the clearing—old, beautiful, magical and wild—remain intact in some way. The time of year should also be evident.
We must understand the setting. Not just understand it, but feel it. It is midwinter, and we are in an ancient forest clearing, and so I imagine we readers can picture tall trees with wide trunks, for example.
But Sonia also tells us that if we need to alter the setting in some way (imagine this play performed in an old city, a baseball diamond no longer used, an empty train station), what must not be changed, what readers and performers and showgoers must understand, is the “feeling of the clearing – old, beautiful, magical, and wild.”
These are characteristics that are full of wonder, and that leads to deeper understanding. They are also characteristics that disrupt. Conflict can be like this: if we allow it, in a redemptive way, conflict can disrupt and leads to deeper understanding. Something can become clear.
Second, we have two kings who, every year at midseason, engage in an epic fight. Not only do they fight, but the one who is strongest kills the other. Reading the play though, it is evident that, though there is sibling rivalry, there is also deep love between Holly King and Oak King. They are twin brothers, and so it seems they know each other as well as they know themselves. I consider the recklessness I feel, especially at midwinter, and what of myself must be put to rest so that another part of myself can grow. This does not mean those parts won’t come back—just as seasons return—it means that at times parts of who we are, parts we love, need to at times step aside in order for other parts to shine.
Perhaps being our whole, genuine selves means allowing for the old and the magical; the beautiful and the wild to at times battle, to reveal themselves, to be used. Maybe that’s what it means to see ourselves—and each other—clearly.
Finally, there is the conversation on regret that Holly and Oak have as Holly lies dying. The fight feels different this time. Holly wonders if humans will be sad when, this time, winter doesn’t return. Oak has reflected on humans’ role in Holly’s weakening but Holly thinks if they regret, this means they cared. This reframes for me the phrase, “No regrets.” Maybe it’s all right to have a few regrets—to attend to what you now care for.
“And if not cared,” Holly King says, “then noticed. I hope they notice.”
Noticing, I think, is the beginning of caring. And to care, means to stand at that ancient clearing and feel all the conflicts of the old, the beautiful, the magical, and the wild.
We’re discussing Sonia Barkat’s collection of 10-minute plays this month.
For Discussion or Journaling:
- A tragic play is defined as one that “deals with tragic events, and having an unhappy ending, especially one concerning the downfall of the main character.” Where do you see components of tragedy in “Winter Stars?”
- At the end of Romeo and Juliet, the prince calls the people of Verona to tell the story of the two lovers again and again. What good, what opportunities come from telling a tragic story?
- Do you see any redemption in conflict? In the story or in your own life?