Tuesday Oct 22

Jacqueline Wright is a Los Angeles based writer/performer. Her plays have been produced/developed with Theatre of NOTE, Santa Clarita Rep, the Ensemble Studio Theatre (New York & Los Angeles), Ghost Road Company, ASK Theatre Projects, Occidental College, California Institute of the Arts, Playwrights Arena, Echo Theatre Company, 24th Street Theatre, The Virginia Avenue Project, and HBO's Comedy Arts Festival.

As a performer/playwright, Wright has received numerous awards and nominations including an LA Weekly Performance Award, a nomination for Best Adaptation & comedy playwriting and an Ovation nomination for her collaborative work with the Ghost Road Company (Clyt At Home: The Clytemnestra Project). Her play Eat Me received six LA Weekly nominations. Wright is a 2005 Jerome Fellowship alternate. Her production of Spider Bites had a beautifully executed run at Theatre of Note and her play Love Water, recently premiered as an EST LA Project-Open Fist co-production. Jacqueline is a member of the Dog Ear writer’s collective (www.dogear.org)

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Jacqueline Wright interview, with Joshua Fardon
 
Was the character of Buddy inspired by anyone specific?
 
In college we did a mask class that culminated in us creating a character. So I created Buddy, but his name then was Rick. He was the same sweet nebbishy big-hearted guy. Then later, I was in an improv group and I was thinking of something I could do with this character and that's when I wrote the nominated-as-a-joke speech [from the beginning of the play]. I performed that a couple of times, and then I changed his name to Buddy because of the buddy system. There were so many people who seemed to really like him – they'd say, “I was a Buddy” or “I knew a Buddy.” So I was trying to write something bigger with him in it, but it took a long time. At first, it was more typical of what you would expect that speech to turn into: kid gets nominated as joke and wins. But that wasn't engaging to me. So I put it down for a while. Then, when I started writing it again, Buddette came out of the locker. And I realized “okay, this is more comic book-like.”
 
Do you think of Buddy and Buddette as being opposites within the same person?
 
I think she gives him a voice he doesn't have. Hopefully, by the end of the play, there's more of an emergence with him. I realized that Buddy's big mission was to find the key to peace and kindness. And the key to peace and kindness is forgiveness, which is both insanely simple, and insanely complex.
 
One of the characters says there's all this brutality and suddenly there's beauty. That's sort of the whole play in a nutshell: it's this dark nightmarish world but it's filled with these funny characters who find redemption and kindness.
 
I love turning things upside down. I like turning somebody into what they hate and seeing how that affects them and how they grow from that. So, I took two rapists [the characters Jake and John] and changed them into something they hate, which is women. That forced them to look at things from a different perspective. I believe if you ask people whether or not they would choose to be the perpetrator or the victim of a violent crime, most would choose to be the victim. It's more comfortable, more sympathetic and it's more passive. So, one of the rapists says, “would you rather be the rapist or the person being raped?” The other guy says, “I'd rather be the person being raped,” because of the responsibility he now feels as a conscious person.
 
His female side has given him an awareness that wasn't there before.
 
Right. And I'm often curious about forgiveness and redemption and how to forgive the most horrific things and how to change the perspective of an abuser.
 
One of the characters, Frankinsense, is agoraphobic. What about agoraphobia attracted you?
 
There’s been moments in my personal life when I’ve had, not necessarily agoraphobia, but irrational fears, which can be partly justified by the things we see in the news. I think it can be fearful to be a female in the world. Not to say that it’s easy for men, but as a woman you can easily fall into being a preyish-type human being. So I think some of my irrational fears made me a little on the reclusive side. Not so completely agoraphobic, just kind of, you know, nesting.
 
Frankinsense is scared to leave the house. She talks to her therapist who tells her to just make it to the dumpster. So she goes out to the dumpster and these two guys jump out and try to rape her. So what she was afraid of is true. It’s a world full of monsters.
 
It is.
 
And the only way she gets past it is by having the monsters brought into her house.
 
I think if I said upfront what was gong to happen with Frankinsense and the rapists it would not go over well. The manipulation of the play is that it lets the audience kind of fall in love with these two guys in the way that she does before the horrificness of their past is revealed.
 
A lot of the stuff you do is extremely theatrical. You can read some of these stage directions and think “how are they going to do that?” Like the Butcher with multiple personalities who suddenly becomes other people.
 
We just had a really crazy good actor. 
 
Do you think visually when you write?
 
At key points. This is an earlier play of mine. Some of my more recent work, like Spider Bites [produced at Theatre of NOTE in 2009], is more visual. But, yeah, there’s some images like Buddy hiking naked with a locker stuck to his back. That was a sweet little image. But for the most part, I tend to just write what happens and then the designers figure it all out.
 
A lot of creative designers love that kind of thing.
 
Yeah. And I find that they execute it in a way I could never think of. Like in the production of Buddy Buddette [by the Ensemble Studio Theatre at the McCadden Place Theatre], the background of the set was a giant comic book that had turning pages.
 
Cool!
 
And all of Frankinsense’s furniture was really small. So they’d all be seated around this tiny little table.
 
You’re going to think I’m crazy, but there’s something about this play that reminds me of Little Nemo [the early 20th century comic strip by Winsor McCay]. 
 
(Laughs)
 
It’s the way the characters go in all these fantastic directions and undergo all these dramatic transformations and embrace their circumstances so fully. 
 
Yeah, and Buddy also reminds me of Kermit the Frog, who I love. He’s just so sweet, and he’s poetic in a way. And, you know, he’s green.
 
But Buddy’s not green!
 
He’s not (laughs).
 
On the other hand, Buddette's pretty reluctant to be sweet or good and even literally chokes on the word “responsibilities.”
 
Yeah. I think that as human beings we all have our morality and we all try to be good people, whatever that means. Buddy desperately wants to be good and kind. He would never allow himself to yell at someone or to be human in some ways. So I think that Buddette is a nice expression of all the things he can’t be without his having to take responsibility for them. And maybe that’s partly it. You know, it's like the person who’s kind and sweet all day and then gets their drink on. Buddy is such an idealist, which can be very painful. Buddette represents a part of him that he’s not able to express. He probably has a lot of anger from all the things in his life that he’s not really dealing with. That roar in him is not a possibility. So Buddette comes roaring out and is able be all the things that Buddy just despises.
 
You’re also an actor. Did you start writing or acting first?
 
It was symbiotic. I was writing stories when I was very little. I come from a family of storytellers and I liked telling stories. I’d elaborate a lot if I didn’t get the response I wanted. My mother finally said, “look you can embellish your stories on paper, but in real life, that would be lying.” I really genuinely like writing. I like acting a little more because I find it a little more communal. I can get a little lonely writing a lot.
 
Tell me about it.
 
It's nice, if I've been writing a lot, to have a place where I'm forced to show up. 
 
When you're a writer, you're kind of out on an island imagining this big collaboration. 
 
But if you're a playwright and you have your plays being done, you're a part of it. It's different than writing a book. I think one of the reasons, among many reasons, I'm attracted to playwriting is it allows me to create something with other human beings. We give them a flat thing on paper and they put people in it and build a set and it suddenly becomes dimensional and this living thing that's really not yours anymore but belongs to everybody. And that's very satisfying. And there's a symbiotic relationship between the audience and the play that I think is just crazy. A play changes every night. There's a kind of dialogue, a back and forth. And I find its impermanence sad, but at the same time, it's something I really love. 
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All Connotation Press plays are presented online to the reading public. All performance rights, including professional, amateur, television and the rights of translation into foreign languages are strictly reserved. If you are interested in seeking performance rights to a specific work contact the Drama Editor, Joshua Fardon

 

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