Brian Brems shares thoughts on his Inspiration for Comancheria:
This story is a Limelight premiere. It comes from an idea I had about a modern retelling of what’s referred to as a ‘captivity narrative.’ These stories (both fictional and non-fictional) date back to pioneer America, and dramatize settlers’ fears about the native people. Essentially, the stories revolve around the kidnapping of women, and the efforts of white men who try to save them. This story structure creates a very traditional definition of gender roles within stories – that men do the rescuing, and women are to be rescued. My version is set now, and repurposes those captivity narratives by upending our expectations of them.
As with many original works, it can be tempting to read the author into the lead character, but I always caution audiences to be careful about doing so. These characters are all me, of course, because this work comes from me, but they are also all radically different from me. These characters come to life through an amalgamation of different beliefs, ideas, and fears.
Comancheria is about dividing lines. It is about one set of characters on one side of a sharply defined border, and another set on its other side. One those disparate sides of the border, people have never-intersecting conversations. They lead parallel lives, never seeing the members of the other tribe. Ultimately, the show explores what happens when a character crosses the border.
I was inspired to write this show quickly. Sometimes, the lightning bolt strikes, and something just appears. That’s the case with this one. I was interested in doing something more dramatic, where humor was present, but not a main driver of the action. I also wanted to challenge the show’s actors to push themselves to deeper psychological places than they’ve ever explored before. Conveying a character’s inner life through performance is not easy, but a valuable experience for performers.
My writing has changed over the past several years in many ways, but I am most proud of the way I have reoriented my perspective to telling stories about, and from the point of view of, women. One of the things that attracted me to writing this show is reframing a genre of story (captivity narratives, westerns, even psychological dramas) that is often male for a female main character. I see this show as a way of opening access to genre for women from which they have largely been excluded in mainstream storytelling.
I’m reluctant to hold up a line of my own writing as some great, profound distillation of Life As A Human Being, so audiences will have to decide for themselves what in the show speaks to them. Instead, I’ll lean on one of my continuing sources of inspiration, Bruce Springsteen. For the show’s tagline, I chose a quote from his 1978 song, “The Promised Land,” which is about a character driving through the American west. Seeing something ominous on the horizon line, the singer tells us, “There’s a dark cloud risin’ from the desert floor.” The image conjured up by that evocative lyric is what I see in my head when I imagine staging this show.