Supporting creative work by women
Janine Nabers is one of the busiest playwrights working today. I had the good fortune to meet her four years ago while she was an MFA playwriting student at the New School, and I’ve watched her career skyrocket over the past few years.
Last month, it was announced that Janine is the 2011 recipient of the P73 Playwriting Fellowship. She’s also honed her playwriting skills through residencies at the MacDowell Colony, Sundance, Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab series and the Dramatists Guild. Janine is currently developing at least three plays. Despite her packed schedule, we’re thrilled she agreed to answer a few questions for Works by Women.
1) You grew up in Houston, Texas. How much has that place influenced your work?
I was born and raised in Houston and Louisiana but my parents are Yankees. I think I am an interesting mix of a handful of places. I definitely write plays with more southern/western themes then anything else. I’ve lived a lot of places but I keep writing about my roots.
2) Congrats on being the 2011 recipient of the P73 Playwriting Fellowship. Tell us a little bit about the fellowship and the two plays — A SWELL IN THE GROUND and SERIAL.BLACK.FACE – that you will develop through the year-long fellowship.
A SWELL IN THE GROUND is a play about mourning. I think a lot of my plays deal with mourning but the structure of SWELL centers around the seven stages of grief. The stages of grief are used to reflect the deterioration of a romantic relationship after one loses a parent. Right now I’m half way through the first draft and am hoping to have it completed by March for a workshop this summer.
SERIAL.BLACK.FACE. came to my mind when I was researching the Atlanta Child Murders that took place in the 1970’s and lasted until the 1980s; A time in America when lower income black kids went missing from the projects in Atlanta. The play I’m writing focuses on a single black mother living in the projects.
3) During your career, you’ve also been part of different residencies, including the MacDowell Colony, Sundance, Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab series, Dramatists Guild. How important are residencies and support from theaters to the development of playwriting?
When I was working 50 hours a week and in three writers groups at the same time residencies saved my life because they gave me time to get away from NYC and sit down and write my plays. They were my saving graces in a lot of ways. Yes, you are leaving your home and work life and not making money for weeks at a time but residencies are miraculous when it comes to being productive. As for writers groups I can only speak from my own personal experience BUT the reason why I’ve done so many developmental groups in this city is because it puts you in the company of other professional writers that inspire the hell out of you. I was very confused and writing in the dark before I got involved with Ars Nova and the other writing groups I’ve done. You would not believe how much showing up every week to read other writers’ plays can change your mindset and energy. It brought me back to life. The writing was stunning, and it made my plays better. I’m forever grateful to every single writers group I’ve done.
4) You’ve recently worked on GENTRIFUSION with playwrights Carla Ching, Joshua Conkel, Michael Jon Garcés, Jon Kern and Crystal Skillman. What a fantastic line-up. What have you learned from working on GENTRIFUSION?
Gentrifusion has been a super great experience and I’ve had a lot of fun working with The Red Fern Theatre. I usually shy away from writing 10 minute plays when people ask me to contribute my work as part of an evening of theater (mostly because I never seem to have the time) but I really loved the concept of writing a play about Gentrification and what that means today for people of different ages and races.
I really enjoyed the process and the entire evening is so diverse and interesting. My play 2(11) is loosely based on my experience living in Washington Heights and being the only non-Dominican apartment in my building. I think every play is pretty personal to all the writers in that evening so it’s really exciting to see.
5) What’s next on the horizon for you?
My play ANNIE BOSH IS MISSING is going to Sundance. I did the Sundance writing re-treat but I’m super excited to get to workshop a play with actors and Director Trip Cullman.
After Sundance I have a couple other readings and workshops happening over the summer. It’s all very exciting.
6) What do you think is the greatest challenge facing female theater artists?
There are so many phenomenal female playwrights out there and only a tiny percentage of them are actually being produced. I think the main thing to remember is it’s hard for everyone and that your individual voice is very important even if you don’t think you’re getting the “attention” you deserve. I think a big challenge can be maintaining your confidence when you keep receiving rejection letter after rejection letter. It’s hard but you have to stay in high hopes and keep writing.
7) What gives you hope for women in American theater?
The future…The young professional women I encounter every single day who are directing/writing/producing/developing new plays and will one day run theater companies because it’s in their blood.
And new plays… I know so many amazing women who are writing plays and don’t even have agents or anyone behind them yet. What gives me hope is knowing that there are women out there who are busting their asses and writing better plays because of it. I know they will one day get the credit and career they deserve.
Thanks to Janine Nabers for sharing her thoughts about playwriting and theater. Keep a look out for her upcoming plays.