Sunday, February 24, 2013

I Interview Playwrights Part 553: Jenelle Riley

Jenelle Riley

Hometown:  Salem, OR

Current Town:   After 16 years, the post office tells me I'm no longer in Culver City, I'm in Los Angeles proper.

Q:  Congrats on the LA Weekly nomination.

A:  Thank you! Can I tell you the weirdest story about how I found out? I was interviewing Jim Leonard, the writer of "Bad Apples" (my day job is the Film and TV Editor of Backstage Magazine.) He got a text informing him he had received 12 LA Weekly nominations for his show. I was trying to pull up the list to find out if my friend French Stewart was nominated for "Stoneface" because it was his birthday and I was hoping he would get a sweet present in the form of a nom. As I was scrolling through the list, I saw my name. Somehow, I had forgotten I had even done a show that was eligible--it just wasn't even something I was considering. I kind of blurted out in shock: "Oh! I'm...nominated...too!" Jim was so gracious and excited for me, and told me this was his best interview ever.

Q:  Tell me about the show you were nominated for.

A:  "A Kind of Love Story" is a parody and homage to the romantic comedy genre. It's the story of two people who were made for each other, true soulmates, who have never met. We follow the comic and tragic misadventures of Mark and Ally as their lives crossover and intersect, hoping for the day they might meet. Along the way, each has to overcome their own obstacles (Mark is the perpetual "good friend," Ally can't seem to shake her loser boyfriend) and hope for the day they find each other.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  A film adaptation of "A Kind of Love Story," hopefully to shoot this year. It's being produced by Andrew Carlberg, who is responsible for a few of Neil LaBute's screen adaptations, including the upcoming "Some Girl(s)," so I'm in good hands. Awaiting word on a pilot I worked on for FX. Also, my first novel, currently titled "Not the Girl." None of those things are theatre related, so I guess I'm a big sell-out.

Q:  How would you characterize the LA theater scene?

A:  It's my home, my community, my refuge. Sacred Fools Theatre is full of amazing, talented people who have become my family. I've been allowed to experiment, fail, and succeed on their stage through their various programs and shows. For better or worse, they're responsible for the writer I am today.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  Much of "A Kind of Love Story" is very autobiographical. Like the heroine, my first kiss was the result of a bribe. In first grade, a boy I had a crush on wanted to see this fossil I had found and I told him he could see it if he let me give him a kiss. He did, I kissed him, he was disgusted and pushed me down. Kind of a perfect metaphor for both my love and writing lives. But putting it on stage and making people laugh was more healing than thousands of dollars in therapy.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  That more people would go see it.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  First and foremost, Martin McDonagh. Theresa Rebeck, Stephen Sondheim, David Mamet, Neil LaBute, Stuart Gordon, Neil Simon. On the acitng side, Mandy Patinkin, Jessica Chastain, and Hugh Jackman, who gave one of the most perfect performances I've ever seen in "Boy From Oz."

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I'm not someone who seeks out a certain kind of theatre. Honestly, I just want to be entertained. If that means a community theatre production of "Into the Woods," I'm in. I do have an aversion to one-person shows but having said that, I've seen some pretty perfect ones, like Denis Leary's "No Cure for Cancer."

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Write. It's a cliche for a reason; the people who I know that are getting things up are the ones who never stop writing. Don't wait to get paid for it.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Check out to see what my company is up to, it's got some wicked talented people. And some talented wicked people. But we won't do "Wicked," I promise. My blog at, and my writing at and Follow me on Twitter at where I occasionally post "Futurama" porn.

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