The Penguin Tango

By: Stephen Svoboda

When I started working on this play I was under orders to write a comedy. My play Odysseus, DOA had just had a very successful run in NYC, but my agent at the time felt I needed to write something more "commercial.” I don’t consider myself particularly funny, so I had a bit of writer’s block. Then one morning I was surfing the human’s inter web and discovered the story of Roy and Silo and their egg at the Central Park Zoo, and the subsequent backlash from different political groups. (A children’s book, “And Tango Makes Three", based on the same story is one of the most banned books in our country even today!) This led me down a rabbit hole where I met Cass, Wendell, the clowns Gomez, Giovanni and Curly from the Brooklyn Zoo, and finally Dia from the Bremerhaven Zoo in Germany. I was inspired to write a play in the style of the great Greek comedies, in the tradition of The Birds, or The Frogs; plays that transported the audience to a world where animals anthropomorphized human traits to parody our societies issues. But I wanted to take it a step further and incorporate the Roman tradition of stock characters from Commedia Del’Arte. The resulting hybrid, with a few out of the box ideas from my own strange brain, is The Penguin Tango. A play, I hope, asks humans to consider the damage that our need to simplify complex human ideas of sexuality and gender into neat little packages actually causes more harm than good.  I also get severely angry when people assume because a play deals with sexuality or gay subject matter it is automatically rated R. So I decided to rise to the challenge of creating a play about serious social issues in an unserious way. A play that is a kin to a Pixar film on-stage, that parents can bring their kids to and that could facilitate safe conversations about gender and sexual identity. We live in a world where we look for the differences instead of the common threads between us and maybe, if we could just see each other as the penguins do, as just penguins, we might be able to make the world a better place.