May 7, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 350: Jane Miller
Hometown: Manhattan, NY.
Current Town: Brooklyn, NY
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on a production of my play Feedback with Squeaky Bicycle Productions that will go up in July. I’m excited to be working with director Laura Pestronk who I’ve known since high school when we did theater together. Feedback is about a woman coping with a death and a breakup who decides to get “re-branded” by a personal marketing firm. I’ve always been kind of fascinated by self-help gurus and the idea of how you frame yourself to the world.
I’m also preparing to go to the Last Frontier Theater Conference in Valdez, Alaska in June – so preparing myself mentally to get no darkness for two weeks!
I’m also working on a play called Seeking Participants about a retired couple who participate in an experiment where they both get fMRI’s to show what their brains look like having been in a loving, long term relationship for years. Suffice to say, the play is about when our brains know things about us before our heart does.
And, I’m co-founder of Theater ++, a yearly one-act festival centering on the role of technology in people’s lives. We’ll be requesting submissions soon!
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I’d like more theater companies (and MFA programs!) to take chances on new(er) playwrights who aren’t already well known. I see the same names over and over at theater companies. And I’ve learned that MFA playwriting programs seem to be equally competitive and exclusive.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: I love the work of John Patrick Shanley, Tina Howe, Christopher Shinn, Annie Baker and Adam Bock. Their work resonates with me.
Also, Ryan Gilliam of Downtown Art really changed my life. She has a youth theater company on East 4th street in NYC that I was a part of in high school. Most memorably, I played Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Arguments, which was Star Wars adapted for the stage. My Obi Wan costume was a beige towel cape and an umbrella as my light saber. She made a family out of us, and I’m so happy to have been a part. She’s endlessly inventive, and really made me see what a theater community was.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Theater with lyrical language and meaning – theater that gives me the shivers, and makes me question my own life. Any play that offers illumination into the things I’m grappling with or thinking about is exciting. Also, simply - theater that makes me want to start a conversation.
If I leave the theater feeling buoyant and exuberant and want to start writing, then I consider that exciting theater. I felt that way most recently by Adam Bock’s A Small Fire, and Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Find time everyday to write, even if it’s just twenty minutes a day. Set a timer if you have to, and just do it. If you’re writing everyday, you’re going to grow as a writer. It’s inevitable.
And I don’t think it’s bad to write about the things that you’re obsessed with in your own life. I wrote a whole lot of plays about female friendships, probably too many – but they were honest and from a deeper place than if I had wrote plays solely because I thought other people would be interested in them. If you’re fascinated by something, other people probably are too.
Q: Plugs, please:
I’m involved with The Pack, an artists development group, that’s part of Packawallop Productions. They do incredible work and they’re all really nice, fun, talented people. Being part of their monthly developmental group has helped my writing grow tremendously. Check em out, http://www.packawallop.org
Also, check out Feedback this summer, with Squeaky Bicycle Productions!