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Feb 14, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 914: Jean Ann Douglass

Jean Ann Douglass

Hometown:  North Providence, Rhode Island

Current Town:  Brooklyn, NY

Q:  Tell me about your upcoming show.

A:  The Providence of Neighboring Bodies is actually set in my hometown, or perhaps a slightly more magical version of my hometown with an alternate history from the one we know. It's two women living in an apartment complex, with adjoining balconies, sparking friendship with each other despite being far more comfortable inside their heads than they are in the world. We see them both in their confident inner space and in their awkward external reality. And then a stranger comes to town, and to say more would be spoiling some fun twists.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I just finished a play called Ladycation, set on a 'girl's weekend' for seven old college friends, also starring various objects they brought with them (a car, a jar of coconut oil, a hula hoop) - which are all played by men. I'm starting work on a sex comedy about the Seneca Falls Convention that reflects the racism of that wave of the women's rights movement. My partner, Eric John Meyer, and I are also co-writing a play with the working title Thought Leadership Pleasure Cruise for our company, Human Head Performance Group. We'll also be reviving an older piece of ours, Obfuscation, which is about language and secret meetings and training yourself to manipulate people and takes place in the back of an actual box truck.

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 a child, I was obsessed with Disney World. Before we'd go on vacation there, I would study several different official and not-official guide books. I knew how to plan your day to hit rides in a certain order to minimize your wait. I knew about the lagniappe on almost every ride - a hidden Mickey Mouse icon made out of found materials. But maybe more than the rides themselves, I was obsessed with the waiting areas. I loved the effort they put into the installations that you walked through while you waited in line. I loved that the unavoidable reality of the long wait in line was repurposed from something utilitarian to something slowly and effectively getting you even more excited to ride the ride. And that after you finished a ride on a spaceship, you could buy astronaut ice cream.

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

A:  I wish that the New York theater people could all afford to live in an area and also make work in that area. We've all moved to the ends of the subway lines in the search for affordability, and I think it would be nice if we could be neighbors, instead. And walk home after our shows.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like theater that's inventive in the service of rawness. I like writers that leave their hearts on the page. I like finding poetry in unexpected places. I like productions that prioritize the totality of the audience experience.

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

A:  Make a lot of things and sometimes they will be plays and sometimes they will be things other than plays. Making not-plays will teach you what your plays could be. See lots of art that isn't theater. Find paying work where you work with people who are not theater-people. These things will help you continue to be obsessed with theater.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  The Providence of Neighboring Bodies is being produced by Dutch Kills as an Ars Nova Fling and opens on February 13th.

Check out Human Head Performance Group (http://www.humanheadperformancegroup.com/) and The Truck Project (http://www.thetruckproject.com/) for the work I do with Eric John Meyer.

We even have a book of our plays you can buy: Truck Plays (https://www.amazon.com/Truck-Plays-Backroad-Winehouse-Obfuscation/dp/0692359176/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486098063&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=truck+plays+jean+ann+douglas).

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