Something I’ve always found excitingly daunting is jumping into a new style or genre of literature. I felt this strongly when starting Vivek Shraya’s latest book featuring her play How to Fail as a Popstar. Personally, I’ve never really felt the need to venture into reading plays because I felt as if I got my fill of that in high school, and if I desperately wanted to consume one, I could easily head into the city and get tickets to a show. But being a fan of Vivek’s work and compelled by the idea of this play, I knew I had to pick this up. And wow, am I sure glad I did!
Despite my nerves going into this piece, I immediately felt at home reading the foreword by play director Brendan Healy. I knew right there that this play would be something I highly value, and when Healy listed his three main takeaways from the play, I felt so much more eager to continue reading.
Vivek is extremely skilled in creating a compelling narrative. The majority of this play is formed around an autobiographical telling of her experiences with wanting to become a popstar from her earliest memory of music to where she sees her ultimate failure. Music is of course a key aspect of this play as it is dotted with her original songs (much to my delight as I really love her music, check her out on Spotify), and they really added so much to the story. I particularly love the closing song, Showing Up.
Mostly, though, this play spoke to me as a creative at a fundamental level like nothing else. Failure is never talked about in this sense. We’re told to move on, to never give up, that our failures make us stronger, but in reality a lot of us are just playing the lottery—99.9% of us are set up to fail. And that’s okay. Failing sucks, but we can mourn, learn (if we want to), and move on, and we don’t have to keep trying again and again when the odds are against us. And even if you don’t fully achieve your dreams of being that 1 in a million megastar of whatever art you do, you can still keep doing your art without striving for what, despite what our society tells us to do.
This play says all of that in a personable, skillfully written way that is extremely compelling and keeps you hooked to the narrative. I highly recommend this book to other creatives who have struggled with failure, or really creatives in general. And really, to anyone who has dealt with any kind of failure. It’s a really brilliant play that doesn’t rely on bullshit motivational quotes; it actually speaks to real life. I give it 5/5 stars, and please check it out!