May 27, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 180: Janine Nabers
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Current Town: New York, NY
Q: Tell me about Welcome to Jesus.
A: WELCOME TO JESUS was developed during the 2009/2010 Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab series. I started writing the play in October of last year and finished it this spring. My director was the incomparable Adam Greenfield (Most of you may know him as the literary manager at Playwrights Horizons). Working with him is pretty amazing. He’s like a dramaturgical jedi.
The play is a dark and epic story of a football-crazed town in Texas that begins to fall apart after a mysterious murder that causes some people in the town to lose their faith. The fictional town is located in the Bible Belt of Texas... A lot of people say the play reminds them of “Friday Night Lights” meeting “Twin Peaks” or a really twisted version of “The Blind Side.” I haven’t watched any of these things but if the story rings true and weird to people who have then that’s fine with me. My main influence when writing the play was “Our Town.”
I rewrote the majority of the play while in residency at the Sundance Writers' Retreat @ UCross earlier this year before bringing it back to NYC for the lab.
The reading went really well. I’m kinda freaked out by how well it went. Right now I’m just rewriting and will hopefully hear it read aloud again in the near future.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: ANNIE BOSH IS MISSING is another play that I’m currently working on. The story centers around a biracial girl who returns home to Houston after a stint in rehab right as Hurricane Katrina hits the ground in Louisiana. It’s a play about an unstable girl who’s searching for connection in a once familiar place that’s now chaotic and unsafe.
I started writing the play with Ars Nova last fall and finished it at the MacDowell Colony this March. It’s currently nominated for the Cherry Lane Mentor Project.
In addition, there are plans for a professional reading of it this fall.
I’m also working on the very beginning stages of a musical. And finishing a TV pilot.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: When I was 10 years old I was obsessed with the fastest woman in the world (Jackie Joyner-Kersee). I wrote her a letter telling her I wanted to one day run in the Olympics. Joyner-Kersee liked my letter so much she called me and told me that if I never made it to the Olympics I should consider becoming a writer.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A; I think it would be amazing if there were therapy group sessions for playwrights. Free cheese, wine and a big circle. Each meeting would be a new topic of theatre discussion and we could all share our fears and wants and in the end work towards a solution.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Right now I’m excited by NEW PLAYS. I’m currently in three writers' groups and the plays that these people are writing blow my mind. I mean…damn. I’m excited by the originality of every piece and the voices of writers that are screaming so loud it will knock your socks off once you hear their latest stuff. Writers like: Matthew Lopez, Branden Jacob-Jenkins, Erica Lipez, Annie Baker, Bekah Brunstetter, Liz Flahive, Amy Herzog, Kate E. Ryan, Andrew Rosendorf, Gabe McKinley, and Victor Lesniewski.
All of these writers are insanely talented and I can guarantee you their best plays aren’t even finished yet. I’m excited by their potential.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: - Don’t be afraid to ask other theatre professionals questions.
- If you find out about fellowship/grant/writers' group submissions tell your playwright friends about it. Help one another out. Don’t be competitive when it comes to things like that. Trust that your work will speak for itself and you’ll get whatever it is you’re applying for.
- Try to out do yourself with each new play you write.
Q: Plugs, please:
Matthew Lopez's play THE WHIPPING MAN is currently playing May 26-June 13th here:
Branden Jacob-Jenkins adaptation of the OCTOROON is at PS122 from June-July here:
Kate E. Ryan's play DOT at the Ohio Theatre here:
Victor Lesniewski's CONSPIRACY: A LOVE STORY (a musical comedy) will be produced at the Midtown International Theatre Festival July 14th-21st here: