Core Writer Jenny Connell Davis is at the Playwrights’ Center this week, workshopping End of Shift with director Jennie Ward; dramaturg Christina Ham; and actors Nate Cheeseman, Sam Pearson, Riley O’Toole, Charlotte Calvert, and Joanna Harmon. We asked Jenny a few questions:
What are you working on?
Route 77 runs right through my hometown in Maine. About halfway between the farm stand and the congregational church, there’s a rock. And every year, for the past 20 years, a couple of folks have repainted the same words: “In Memory of (well, I won't tell you the name, actually).” I’m writing a play about that rock, that name, and the kids who keep painting that rock—at least, as I remember them, or imagine them. It’s a play about how we memorialize the ones we lose too young, and what those memories do to the ones left behind.
Why do you write plays?
I write because it’s the best way I know to explore unanswered, maybe unanswerable questions. I write for the stage because theater, more than any other medium, allows artists to approach a single question from multiple points of view. As someone more interested in questions than answers, I am drawn to morally complex stories, deeply flawed characters, and dark humor.
My work usually begins when an image or question starts to gnaw at me. I’ll try to brush it off, to answer it or ignore it. The question or image I can’t dismiss—that’s the seed of a play.
What playwriting/theater advice do you have for others?
I wouldn’t dare presume to give others advice!
Okay, that’s a huge lie. I'm a teacher—what teacher can resist giving advice?
Write. Just write. Keep writing. Write messy, write sincere, don’t write with an eye toward what others want to hear but what you need to say.
Then enlist the advice of the smartest people you know, and listen hard, not just to what they’re saying but to the message behind what they’re saying.
Then revise. Ruthlessly revise. Walk away, write another play, circle back, and revise.