Feb 15, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 121: Laura Jacqmin
Hometown: Shaker Heights, OH
Current Town: Chicago, IL
Q: You're going to Sundance. Congrats! Can you talk about the play you're bringing there?
A: Sure! The play is called "Look, we are breathing." It's about the death of a teenage boy and how the three main women in his life - his mother, his AP English teacher, and his most recent party hookup - just aren't sad about his death. I was planning to write a monologue play, but I cheated almost immediately: less than one page in, Mike (the deceased) shows up, and he continues to influence the direction of the play. I wanted to explore the death of a young person and the conflicted feelings those closest to him might have felt - particularly if this kid was pretty much a stranger to everyone. I thought I was a fully-formed person when I was a teenager, but I know better now.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: A weight-loss thriller comedy. No title yet. And DENTAL SOCIETY MIDWINTER MEETING, a hypertheatrical ensemble comedy about dentists set at the Skokie Marriott. Also, trying to chug through Chicago's endless winter - it always feels the worst in February.
Q: What theaters or plays should I check out when in Chicago?
A: There's no simple way to answer this question. Simply put, there are a million theater companies in Chicago and the fact that even the best rental venues are shockingly cheap means that there's way too much going on for a person to see even a small sampling. I'll be checking out Steppenwolf's Garage Rep next month (three shows by itinerant companies in the Garage space). Other exciting companies include Redmoon, Teatro Luna, The Strange Tree Group, and my home base, Chicago Dramatists.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: My sister and I loved radio when we were kids, so we would plug a microphone into the stereo and record our own radio shows on cassette tapes. We would do fake interviews with each other and pretend to be bands (I thought I was a truly excellent singer in third grade) and describe what we had done that day. I would never listen to what we recorded because I hated the sound of my own voice. Also, I liked to ask my dad to put on something by Stravinsky (usually Pulcinella or The Rite of Spring) and do "ballet" on the living room rug in a fake ballet outfit. I had no dance training, but I was absolutely convinced I was doing it right.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: Less fear. More honesty.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I like story. I can sometimes be amused by gimmickry, but unless I have some concrete story to latch onto, I get exasperated. I also really enjoy being frightened by theater, which happens very, very rarely. A friend of mine directed a program of Beckett's shorts in college, and during "Not I" I just freaked out. It was terrifying and wonderful.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Do your work, and work hard at it. Know where you're going with a project before you begin it, or at the very least, what you want to say. And don't get bitter; it's a time-waster and it never leads anywhere.
A: I'm so proud of my fellow At Play Productions company members Harrison Rivers and Colette Robert, who will also be at Sundance with me, working on Harrison's play "When Last We Flew."