At the PWC this week: Junauda Petrus

Many Voices Mentee Junauda Petrus is at the Playwrights' Center today for a reading of her play There Are Other Worlds. She is joined by dramaturg Christina Ham and actors Megan Burns, Ivory Doublette, Joy Dolo, Imani Belfrey-Waters, and ShaVunda Horsley. The free public reading is at 1:30 p.m. We talked with Junauda about her work and inspirations.

What are you working on?

I am currently working on revising the script for There Are Other Worlds, that is going to be produced in the spring of 2015. I am also getting ready to do an intensive study in aerial acrobatics and Continental African and Diasporic African dance. I infuse elements of movement and film in my written and performance work. I am beginning work on a science fiction work that I am working to produce into a multi-disciplinary collaboration with several artists of different walks for an outdoor festival to be produced in the next year and a half.

Why do you write plays?

I wrote my first play after I started working on text for a performance piece that I was creating that would have poetry, dance and aerial and feature Black women and their stories. At that time I had simultaneously been reading a book about incarcerated women and suddenly, a character showed up. She was a black activist locked up for murder and living away from her children and was doing her best to be spiritual and free in that realm. I was transformed by seeing the world in my head brought to life and to power and to truth!

What playwriting/theater advice do you have for others?

I am new to playwriting but what has helped me is being observant and curious about people and their realities as it exists everywhere. I always hear people say the craziest, most profound and poignant things on the bus. It makes me think of certain kinds of characters and archetypes that surround us in our mundane living that speak to the tremendous universality of the human experience. I write things that help me feel like I exist, I write about young black women with wild spirits and open souls navigating the world. I write so that I don't feel alone.

Who or what inspires you?

Nature, my mom, Al Green, my beautiful, wild and questioning lady friends, the unfathomable brilliance of all kinds of wild women who were artists, astrology, dancing, moonlight and the silhouette of trees, time with myself. Being human inspires me, the experience of being embodied, soulful and being subject to the complexities of becoming in a way that makes you feel like you. The need for love and acknowledgement that propels most of life. I am inspired by resiliency and love.

What are you looking forward to this year, artistically?

I am looking forward to having a formal encounter with playwriting and getting to be in the hallowed company of people who have devoted their lives to wanting to create worlds that mirror, obscure, reflect and transform reality. I am looking forward to being challenged and questioned and pushed. The Playwrights' Center is a place I have always wanted to know more, so this will be a powerful way to grow and learn in my craft. I want to revise my first play and write as much as I can while I have this opportunity and resources.

Junauda Petrus