Thursday, February 18, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 815: Jenny Rachel Weiner

Jenny Rachel Weiner

Hometown: I grew up in South Florida, or as I affectionately call it “Hot New York”.  It’s the part of Florida where all the Jews from the Northeast retire to.

Current Town: New York City! I found my way home!

Q:  Tell me about your upcoming Roundabout Underground show.

A:  My play Kingdom Come will receive its World Premiere at the Roundabout Underground in Fall 2016. Here’s the lil blurb: Samantha is lonely and confined to her bed. Layne is shy and too afraid of the world to journey into it. When both women decide that online dating might be the outlet they need, they venture into the wilds of the Internet and find deep connection in each other. The only problem: they’re each pretending to be someone else. What happens when the feelings are real but the people are not?

This play is my musing on modern day loneliness, how we hide behind the cultivated persona we choose to display online, and the ways in which this affects our projections of love, intimacy, and connection in our “real” lives.

I’m also the Tow Foundation 2016 Playwright-in-Residence at the Roundabout Theatre and couldn’t be more excited to get to spend my time writing and focusing on my production this year.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I’m working on a folk music play about a small town in New Mexico obsessed with pie, a paranoid thriller that takes place at a theatre sleep away camp in the Catskills, and a comedy about a dying mall in Florida that relies on 90’s actor Luke Perry to save it.

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

A:  One time, when I was nine, I was playing “Ballet Instructor and Her Disciples” with my twin sisters, who are five years my junior. This game entailed me dressing them up in full ballet gear—pink tights, tutus, blue eye shadow, I probably wanted to Vaseline their teeth but this was, obviously, refuted—and then just shouting directives at them while wearing a long draping caftan. After two hours of hair and make-up (it was probably ten minutes), I was over this game, but we were too far in it for me to back out now. I had gotten Twin 1’s hair up in a perfect bun and then set her aside. One down, one to go. I had finally mastered Twin 2’s bun, and was just making finishing touches, when a stubborn section of hair delicately fell from its form, now grazing her neck. Instead of re-doing the bun, I did what every nine year would do​: ​I led her upstairs, ​told her to close her eyes, and I cut the few strands* (*very large chunk) from the base of her neck. We played our game that afternoon, my family none the wiser. Until my Mom found the evidence—a clump of red locks in the bathroom cabinet. My sister tells me she still has problems growing hair in that spot.

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

A:  It’s two fold: more resources and support for artists so that we can make a​n actual​ living writing for the theatre (I know this is, obviously, a huge and deeply fraught issue) and more resources and support for plays leading to production opportunities. I’m lucky to be getting this at the Roundabout and through the Tow Foundation this year, but so many plays are lost in the reading circuit and never get the opportunity to have a life. My dear friend Norah Elges in Seattle is trying to change the play development game with her organization Umbrella Project—you can check them out here:

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Tennessee Williams, Augusto Boal, Annie Baker, John Belluso, Bertolt Brecht, Sheila Callaghan, Wendy Wasserstein, Paula Vogel, Tony Kushner, Lisa Kron, Daniel Alexander Jones. ​

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  The bold, brave, belly-laughs that turn to tears kind ​of ​theatre.

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

A:  Make your own work and put it up wherever you can with whatever resources you can gather, beg for, borrow. Take it seriously, work tirelessly, and have fun. Get your friends and tribe in your living room and provide snacks (snacks are key) and read your plays ​out loud​. ​Keep writing even though the rejection letters keep coming. ​Keep yourself engaged in the world--there are potential plays almost everywhere. Try to stop comparing yourself to other writers—nobody will write YOU better than YOU, so do that! I promise, from personal experience, it’s much more delicious to indulge your unique voice than to try to emulate someone else’s.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  My theatre company, Story Pirates! We are a theatre education/media/performance based company that ​take stories kids write and turn them into performance. We ​have programs ​​all around the country, but there is ​a Flagship show at the Drama Bookshop most Saturday afternoons, so you can catch us there. I’m ​in the show often, ​usually wearing a wig and enthusiastically singing. You can find​ ​more info at

My play Horse Girls was also just published by Samuel French, and you can snag a copy at the Drama Bookshop or at

Also, you can find more info about me, my plays, and see some weird pictures
​from my childhood at

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