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1000 Playwright Interviews The first interview I posted was on June 3, 2009.  It was Jimmy Comtois.  I decided I would start interview...

May 12, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 938: Ashley J. Jacobson

Ashley J. Jacobson

Hometown: Wood-Ridge, NJ

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY

Q:  Tell me about How to Be Safe.

A:  “How to Be Safe” is a drama about an agoraphobic empath, Audrey -someone who is so sensitive and riddled with anxiety that she chooses to stay inside, and Willow - an adrenaline junkie and recovering addict who is struggling to control her impulsive and reckless behavior. The play is all about their developing relationship and how their opposing psychological demons either challenge or comfort the other. Really, the play is about the worlds we build inside our heads and the connections we make to other people in order to feel safe, to make sense of how unpredictable life can be.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  In addition to being a writer, I’m also a producer and the Artistic Director for The Dirty Blondes, a feminist theater company - so my plate is always full with planning our next moves and finding other scripts and artists to work with. I’m hoping to take some classes or workshops over the summer to get started on a new play I have swishing around my head. But I also love producing other people’s work and I want to focus on growing The Dirty Blondes and our ability to support new writers.

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 three, I refused to answer to any other name than Dorothy because I loved The Wizard of Oz so much, and I believed in magic and fairy tales for a little too long. My Barbie game was pretty strong as all my Barbies had strong personalities and lived very salacious and dramatic lives. My favorite TV show at 8-years-old was Melrose Place - so I’ve always had a thing for drama.

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

A:  The hustle. It’s so hard to find funding. Even huge theaters with budgets I would die for are beholden to donors and meeting Board Members/ Foundations expectations. There’s pressure to prove marketability/impact before a new show even has a chance - so new writers get stuck in “reading/workshop” purgatory while the same writers are produced across the board. Foundations/donors need to be reactive to trends created by artists instead of trying to lead the field by holding dollars hostage for things they decide in their board rooms are important.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  My heroes are artists like Paula Vogel, María Irene Fornés and Suzan Lori Parks, and some contemporary and emerging artists like Mariah MacCarthy, and Hilary Bettis - all creators of intensely powerful and important work that not only connect on a personal level but bring bigger social issues into their work in meaningful ways.

My heroes are also people who have given so much to the theatrical community like Erez Ziv at Frigid @ Horse Trade (where I have my artistic residency with The Dirty Blondes). Erez is the Patron Saint of independent theater artists. And all the people at ART-New York and Fractured Atlas who create programs, workshops and opportunities for independent artists. My heroes are people who, more than artists, are advocates for the entire theater community.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  The kind that uses every single element of the theatrical experience to tell the story - when lighting, sound, set design, costume, etc. all contribute and push the story further; plays that are so intrinsically theatrical they could never live in any other form - shows that are living things that live and die on the stage.

For example, I just saw Indecent by Paula Vogel on Broadway and it blew my freaking mind! That play is a perfect example of using every single element of the production to tell the story and to create an unforgettable experience. Every single moment and detail on stage pushed the story further and the show would have been incomplete if any of the details were missing. That’s the perfect show to me.

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

A:  Finding the right collaborators and learning how to collaborate is just as important as having a strong script. There’s a tendency to want to direct your own work and I would suggest against that. Generosity, creativity, ingenuity, and honesty are important skills for a writer and they can only be honed when working with other people. Even bad experiences with collaborating, where other artists have tried to steamroll the process, have made me a better writer and a stronger person. The intense collaboration that theater requires is what makes playwrights different from any other writer.

OH - and really really important - see as much theater as humanly possible. My goal is to see a new play or read a new script at least once a week. You have to really love and understand the community you want to be a part of - so go see everything you possibly can. (and use TDF.org so you can afford it!)

Q:  Plugs please:

A:  Obviously - check out How to Be Safe, at The Kraine Theater from June 1 - June 17 - I’m incredibly proud of and excited for this play.

Get thee to Broadway to see Indecent. It’s on TDF - It’s incredible.

Check out my company The Dirty Blondes, we host a reading series and short play festivals and we are always looking for new plays to produce.

And then check out all the plays listed as Qualifying Productions on Parity Productions - all these shows have at least 50% female or trans artists and that really is super important. And of course, anything that Frigid @ Horse Trade has to offer is worth checking out!

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