Technicolor Life by Jami Brandli debuts at Rep Stage OCtober 21, 2015. Her additional plays include S.O.E., M-Theory, ¡Soldadera!, Sisters Three and Bliss (or Emily Post is Dead!) which was named in The Kilroys Top 46 List. She is the winner of John Gassner Memorial Playwriting Award, Holland New Voices Award and Aurora Theatre Company’s GAP Prize. Jami teaches at Lesley University’s low-residency MFA program. Jami invites you to contact her at through her website, www.jamibrandli.com,and follow her on Twitter: @jamibrandli.
What can you say in a play you can’t say in another medium?
I’ve written in several genres and they all have their unique strong points. But the aspect I love most about being a playwright is that I get to completely embrace “theatrical thinking.” For me, exploring what’s possible on stage is like thinking in magic. How can I create magic with dialogue, character wants, dramatic action and spectacle? It’s both an awesome and terrifying creative undertaking, and I love every second of it (even when I’m stuck).
The flip side to this is my passion for doing research, which includes topical, historical and personal research. This is my brain creating concrete, which gives my plays a solid foundation upon which to build. And the final part of my answer is my mission statement as a dramatist: I am committed to giving voice to female protagonists, and I make no apologies for writing complicated, big, sometimes messy, and often times funny plays about women. And I LOVE that I can explore female narratives through connected plays.
What type of theatre most excites you?
I’m open to all kinds of theatre, from kitchen sink realism to the hyper-theatrical. As long as the playwright considers both my head and my heart, I’ll be engaged.
WOMEN’S VOICES THEATER FESTIVAL
October 21 – November 8
10901 Little Patuxent Parkway
Columbia, MD 21044
Details and Tickets
What starts a play moving in your imagination?
It starts in my gut with a character (usually female) combined with a theatrical image, and this character doesn’t leave me alone until I start writing down their journey. These characters usually come from family stories, myths, segments I hear on NPR and/or forgotten history.
Describe your writing day.
My writing day is very straightforward. I get up, walk the dog and go to my local Starbucks (aka my office) and write for as long as I can before I have to tend to other tasks (teaching, running errands, etc). It’s me wearing headphones, my laptop and my coffee. Some days I write a ton and I feel like I’ve uncovered the magic that all writers hunt for (it’s a wonderful high). And other days I write very little and feel frustrated. But, as experience proves, I know that every single word I write counts because I have to write through the bad stuff before I get to the good. I simply have to embrace the frustration just as much as I relish the magic.
How did you choose this play to debut at the Festival?
I didn’t. The Co-Artistic Directors of REP Stage, Joseph Ritsch and Suzanne Beal, chose Technicolor Life to be produced at the festival, and I’m so honored. Several years ago, Joseph Ritsch and I met at WordBRIDGE Playwrights’ Laboratory where we were both playwright fellows and I was working on the very first draft of Technicolor Life. Joseph and I hit it off right away and we remained good friends following each other’s careers. And then Joseph was hired at REP Stage and he told me he wanted to produce and direct it. Needless to say I was BEYOND thrilled. I just love how the journey of Technicolor Life includes Joseph directing its world premiere at REP Stage and that it will also be included in the festival. I’m one lucky playwright.
Which female playwrights have influenced your writing and how?
Here are my top three:
Paula Vogel. Her play, How I Learned to Drive, gave me the courage as a female playwright to dig deep into the dark places and write from a place of raw honesty about my own experiences.
Caryl Churchill. Top Girls, a play with an ALL-FEMALE CAST, was a revelation for me. The all-female cast made me feel validated as a woman with a universal story, and as a playwright, it showed me what’s possible on stage with that incredible first act.
Lorraine Hansberry. A Raisin in the Sun showed me that underrepresented American voices must be heard. And when heard, they will challenge individuals and society at large, which ultimately creates change. This play continues to influence and challenge me to think long and hard about “writing as a political act.”
What’s missing from theatre today?
Underrepresented and marginalized voices, which includes female playwrights. The numbers don’t lie. My hope is this festival will have a ripple effect throughout the country and inspire theaters to be more inclusive of ALL marginalized voices in their upcoming seasons.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on is a five play cycle where I’m reclaiming Greek Classics and Myths and re-envisioning the female narratives from the female perspective. More specifically, I’m setting these five reclaimed stories in fictional towns in New Jersey during the last half of the 20th century and first two decades of the 21st. The first play starts in 1960, titled BLISS (or Emily Post is Dead!), where I reclaim the narratives of Clytemnestra, Medea, Antigone and Cassandra. The final play, Visiting Hours, takes place in modern day where I am reclaiming the myth of Persephone, which is mainly set in a psychiatric care facility. Right now, I’m in the throes of Visiting Hours.
Answer this: “If I weren’t a playwright, I would be … ”
I would still be a writer in some way, shape or form. I would go nuts if I didn’t write. But I believe I would be a vegetarian chef. I grew up in the restaurant industry (my family owns Italian pizzerias and restaurants) and I love the creativity of cooking. There’s also a wonderful immediate satisfaction of creating a meal, which someone eats soon after and (hopefully!) enjoys.