Supporting creative work by women
Jennifer Laine Williams takes the stage this summer in Stockholm Savings, Michael DeMeo’s re-imagining of the events that inspired Dog Day Afternoon, at the New York International Fringe Festival. A graduate of the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, Williams has been seen in Whose Family Values!, Psychomachia; Humans Anonymous in New York City and Veronica Meadows at Trinity Repertory Company.
Williams spoke with Works by Women about why she’s happy to return to FringeNYC, why she hates being asked about what’s next and how The Kilroys inspire her.
WORKS BY WOMEN: Tell me about Stockholm Savings? How are rehearsals going?
JENNIFER LAINE WILLIAMS: Stockholm Savings is a re-telling of the events that inspired “Dog Day Afternoon”, but with a greater emphasis on the relationships among the hostages and between the hostages and the bank robbers. In rehearsals, we’ve been focusing on creating the confined world of the bank, and I think we’re about to delve into exploring the relationships, which will be really fun.
WBW: How do you prepare for a play based on real life events? Is it different, the similar as a literary work? What’s your process?
JLW: Normally, when doing a play based on real life events or playing a character based on a real person, I do a lot of research. About the time period, the events, the person. In the case of Stockholm Savings, however, Nicole is largely the playwright’s creation, so I’m approaching the role as though it is an original character.
WBW: What excites you about being in the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival?
JLW: Deep in the Jeeps of Georgia, the second play I did right out of the Neighborhood Playhouse, was in the 2001 FringeNYC. So, it’s been a while! FringeNYC encourages the development of new work and celebrates the spirit of independent theater. That energy is very inspiring and infectious.
WBW: You had great success with your recent work at Trinity Rep. Tell me about that experience.
JLW: Trinity Rep is an amazing place to work. A well-oiled machine operated by some of the most talented and welcoming people you will ever meet. “Veronica Meadows” was a new play that sprang from the fascinating mind of company member, Stephen Thorne, directed by the very insightful Michael Perlman. The title character is a Nancy Drew-like sleuth, and I played her less skilled sidekick, Ginny. The play deals with what happens as we age, make changes, and reevaluate our dreams. The script changed significantly during the rehearsal process, and it was really wonderful to be intimately involved in that development. And, of course it was a joy to share the stage every night with the incomparable Angela Brazil, Brian McEleney, Fred Sullivan, Phyllis Kay and Joe Wilson Jr. I also discovered and then sort of conquered my fear of heights (until the next time…). So, it was just a lovely experience all around.
WBW: What’s next for you?
JLW: A good friend and colleague shared this with me.
WBW: What are the challenges facing women in American theater?
JLW: The is a pretty hot topic among my theater friends and colleagues and there are a lot of challenges. I was struck by the Sarah Collins quote on the Works by Women home page, that revealed that not a single new play in the Broadway 2013-14 season was female written. There are so many talented female playwrights that have to battle the preconceived notions of the quality of work generated by women and a social culture that has not yet adapted to recognize and encourage female creatives in leadership positions.
WBW: What gives you hope for women in American theater?
JLW: I’m encouraged by the number of female playwrights and directors in the room during recent auditions and by current productions that are not only helmed by women, but also present stories of women in power. I recently saw a preview of King Liz (featured on the Kilroys, something else that gives me hope!) at Second Stage Uptown and was inspired by the collaboration of playwright, Fernanda Coppel, director, Lisa Peterson and the powerhouse actor, Karen Pittman, who played the title role.
Stockholm Savings will premiere at the New York International Fringe Festival this August. For information and tickets, visit www.fringenyc.org.