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May 2, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 933: Jelisa Jay Robinson

Jelisa Jay Robinson

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Current Town: Houston and Austin, Texas is like a second home.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  4 projects.

I am scripting a play about three high school students named Mani, Murdr and Javier and their journey to finding their voices through poetry in present-day America. I work with high school students so this piece reflects their voices, language and nuances. Students have many things to say about the world and my play seeks to disrupt the notion that high school students should just accept what is given to them. They can create change. This play will be followed by a sequel or a continuation story that follows the students to college.

Next, I will get to work on a piece about Black American migration to Mexico. I've been itching to tell this story.

I working on a short performance piece that deals with being Black American and growing up around Mexican Americans.

Q:  Tell me about the Stories of Us.

A:  The Stories of Us is a collection of stories that dig deep into intercultural conflict between African Americans and Latinos, African Diaspora identity and Afrolatinidad. Think of it as a scrapbook of experiences, histories and feelings on the stage. It’s takes you through stories about African roots in Mexico, the time you told your brother you were dating a “Black girl” and that moment you were proud of your heritage. The Stories of US details our stories as people of color trying to navigate each other’s worlds and build one together.

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

A:  I have been creative since I was four year old. I would always create stories based off of the Lion King and Bambi characters. I memorized the entire Lion King film and don't get me started on my imagination. It would run wild. I used to write stories, poems, songs, etc. Creating was life and it all came from deep inside. That is what lead me to be a writer. I was always in my own world, and writing allows me to dream up new worlds.

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

A:  More opportunities for people to make a living off their art.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  My Mom. Professor Stephen Gerald (RIP), Nsangou Njikam, Lin Manuel Miranda, Dr. Omi Osun Joni L. Jones, Isaac Gomez, Jacqueline Lawton, Roxanne Schroeder-Arce, Holli Gipson, Amiri Baraka, Katori Hall, Shonda Rhimes, Tyler Perry, Los Rakas, Issa Rae, Ease Way Says, Ja’Michael DarnelI, ’Brian Oselgby, and Krysta Gonzales.

To be honest, many of my theatrical heroes are musicians right now like Big Sean, Juanes and J.Cole. They weave stories into their music and captivate their audience.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theatre that makes me put myself in the character's shoes. I feel for the character. I take them with me. That's the kind that excites me. I love theatre that tells the stories that I have not heard.

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

A:  Be confident in your stories, because if you don't believe in them who else will. I have learned that if you have the passion, drive and love for the work...for the story...the right people will come. Build your community and be generous with support. Shout out your writer/actor/creative friend's work on social media, send them a text or a 90s style phone call and tell them how dope they are. Send love always. Sometimes that love looks like feedback.

Q:  Plugs, please:


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