Interview with Lasso of Truth Playwright Carson Kreitzer (From the Playbill)
We don’t all take the opportunity to rediscover our childhood heroes, but maybe we should. The qualities that excite us as children – courage, strength, championing truth and justice and, of course, superpowers – get lost when we grow up, get practical and stop choosing our own adventures. But heroes are heroes for a reason, larger than life and awe inspiring, and they shape the way we see the world for the rest of our lives.
Wonder Woman is a female superhero in a male heavy mythology. When creator William Moulton Marston (see his full bio in our next article) first introduced her in 1941, she was a response to a world at war and a society dominated by men. With the creation of Wonder Woman, Marston sought to capture the strength of a superhero – like the recently debuted Superman or Batman – but move away from aggression and competitiveness. “I have given Wonder Woman this dominant force but have kept her loving, tender, maternal and feminine in every other way,” Marston wrote. Marston believed the majority male readership of the early comics benefitted most from Wonder Woman’s example, growing up seeing women as strong, powerful and independent. Only later did she become a feminist icon and a role model for little girls as well.
Though she never completely disappeared, Wonder Woman’s popularity waned in the 1950s and 60s, as society shifted into a post-war era and many women returned to a predominantly domestic life. In the 1970s, Wonder Woman resurfaced, this time on the cover of Ms. Magazine, founded by feminist activist Gloria Steinem who had spent her childhood looking up to the superheroine. Later that decade, Wonder Woman found a new life and reached a whole new generation via the popular television show starring Lynda Carter. She became a symbol of the feminist movement and the fight for equality and rights, remaining beautiful, powerful and kind throughout.
Lasso of Truth playwright Carson Kreitzer first discovered Wonder Woman as a child by way of Lynda Carter, but happened across the superheroine’s origin story while researching a play several years ago. In an interview during rehearsals for MTC’s world premiere production, Kreitzer discussed how the play came into being and why Wonder Woman was her childhood role model.
MTC: Where did the idea for the play come from?
Carson Kreitzer: This play came to me while I was researching the lie detector for another play and found out about William Marston and his connection to Wonder Woman. It just floored me.
So it started with the lie detector, which led you to Marston?
Led me to Marston and his connection to Wonder Woman, and also, in one fell swoop, I found out about how much bondage there was in the early Wonder Woman comics. Wonder Woman was very important to me as a kid, and Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman had been a real building block of my identity. The idea that this incredibly strong woman came out of this bondage fantasy, and looking back, there’s the boots and the bustier and the rope and how did I miss this, oh my god?!
As you learned more about Marston, how did you feel about who he was as a person and as a historical figure, as well as in relationship to your childhood hero?
One of the first things I read about him was that he had these two women in his life – his wife and a young graduate assistant who moved in with them – and had children by both women, and then the women, after his death, continued to live together raising the children. So I perceived their relationship to each other as the really important one. It seemed insane that this strange, beautiful little family had found a way to exist under the radar. I also had heard that Wonder Woman’s bullet-deflecting cuffs were based on a pair of silver bracelets that Olive, the graduate assistant, wore every day. The idea that he had based Wonder Woman on these amazing women…
I fell in love with them first and had a great deal of suspicion of Marston. I didn’t want him to have Wonder Woman; I wanted to connect to her through these two amazing, strong, powerful women. But in doing the research, I really fell in love with him, too. He is so hopeful and naïve and full of the idea that you can change the world and that really won me over. I came to believe that he was sincere in creating Wonder Woman in the image of the amazing women he knew and loved. The Wonder Woman comic book really had a very positive influence on the world: the little boys who grew up reading Wonder Woman were the same men who became rapidly adjusted to women working outside the home and sharing power in so many ways. I had to tip my hat to Mr. Marston.
Let’s talk a bit more about the Girl and the Guy. How did you intend the 1940s story and the more contemporary story to play off each other?
Generally when I’m attracted to a historical event or historical moment, it’s because of the way it reflects on where we are now. With this one, I felt that where we are now is so complicated that it deserved its own voice within the play.
By the way, I am not the Girl. We share certain characteristics, and a timeline, but I am not the Girl. But her struggle to reconcile this new information with her experience of Wonder Woman felt like it needed really specific articulation.
What was your personal connection to Wonder Woman?
I was raised without a lot of television, but I was allowed to watch Wonder Woman on TV. That was my mom being very careful about what was coming into my life. I was not allowed to have a Barbie, because that would teach me that you had to be blonde and very curvy in order to be attractive. But I was allowed to watch Wonder Woman because Lynda Carter, Wonder Woman, was this strong brunette heroine.
Why isn’t Wonder Woman a character in the play? Or is she?
I feel like she’s in there. She is so present in our hearts and minds that I feel like that is the bigger way for her to exist. Honestly, I did have legal concerns about a character who is owned by a giant corporation, but I did some experimenting. I wrote some scenes exploring what it would be if Wonder Woman showed up, and it felt small. The way we feel her and the way we see her come to life from these real life wonder women is more powerful. I learned so much about comics in doing this. I learned a lot about the importance of the origin story in comics and I feel like this origin story for where Wonder Woman came from is the most powerful way to show her respect. To say, this is where she came from and it was these three people, and this really, really groundbreaking, unusual love that they had.
How would you describe this play?
I want to say it’s a kaleidoscope. It’s a sexy gender power kaleidoscope.