Friday, January 17, 2014

I Interview Playwrights Part 634: Jake Jeppson



Jake Jeppson

Hometown: Washington, DC

Current Town: Minneapolis, MN for a bit.

Q:  Tell me about the Clearing.

A:  The Clearing opens Jan 19th at the Theater at St. Clements. Josh Hecht is directing. It tells the story of a family frozen by grief and a buried secret. Things start to thaw when a new love interest enters the picture. Yup, it’s one of those. The first act of the play moves backwards in time. The second act moves forwards. In the script, there’s a lot of wondering where God is, so it’s fun to look around the old churchy space at the exposed brick walls and boarded up stained glass windows. Oh, and it takes place in the clearing at the top of a mountain. We’ve got trees in the theater!

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I’m working on a play about a group of women in west Texas in the 1930’s when electricity was introduced to the area. There's a prophecy, music, and representatives of the federal government. We are workshopping it at the Playwrights Center in March.

Q:  You just got back from Latvia?

A:  I did! Through an odd series of events, my play Turtle wound up being translated and produced in a theater in Latvia. I went over there to see the play and teach a series of workshops. I recommend Latvia. Check out Latvia.

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

A:  Eudora Welty talked about how kids listen for stories: "When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole." I am the baby of a gaggle of half-siblings, step-siblings, and ex-step-siblings, as well as cousins, family friends, etc. As the youngest, I think I developed a keen relationship to grief. Not because I grieved more than anyone else, but because as the littlest one in the room, I watched the landscape of my family change as they made choices, experienced change, celebrated life events, and came home to talk about it. I remember sitting silently at dining room tables and watching big people tell their stories. When you're little, you want to help people, but you don't always know how.

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

A:  People act illogically. I think characters can too. So I'd reduce the sometimes gripping need we feel to explain actions and events on stage.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Teachers who work in non-prescriptive ways. Especially: Paula Vogel, Ken Prestininzi, and Donna Dinovelli. My playwriting sisters: Caroline V. McGraw and Martyna Majok. And writers who fill their work with an emotional charge of understanding: Fornes, Chekhov, Churchill, T. Williams.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Playful, spontaneous work that invites us, the audience, to make believe.

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

A:  Get in rooms and listen. It doesn’t matter what label you have – be infected (inspired?) by being part of it. Apprenticeship has value. And then later, when you're an "emerging artist" you'll have a crew of elders to counsel you.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  The Clearing at the Theater at St. Clements. Jan 15-Feb 9.  http://www.TheClearingPlayNYC.com  Come visit the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis, where I’m a Jerome Fellow. They have a pretty great online presence with workshops, etc. available via Skype. And if in Latvia in 2014, check out my play Turtle (Rupucis) at the New Riga Theater.


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