This year’s Writer/Director Lab reading series kicks off on April 18th with Where Have You Gone by Jacob Perkins and directed by Jaki Bradley. Here’s an interview with Jacob for a bit of context about the play he has written in the Lab!
Briefly tell us about your play.
JP: My play is called WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, and it’s about a Kid, his family in The Deep South, his cyclical behavior in The City, and a traumatic event that brings these worlds together. I began writing the play the weekend my older brother got married down in Virginia (this is not the traumatic event in my play), because I was feeling a tremendous tug between the person I used to be and the person I’m becoming, so that jumpstarted the story for me. I’d say the play is largely about starting over and choosing (or losing) your identity, and it contains home videos, a Christmas Ham, and Birthday Cake for Jesus.
Who – or what – are the greatest influences in your writing?
JP: For this particular play: Anohni (FKA Antony Hegarty from Antony and the Johnsons), TonyKushner, Hanya Yanagihara, My Mother, Alan Ball, all of the Southern Baptist Pastors I listened to growing up, Sam Hunter, Alan Downs’ The Velvet Rage, and I’m sure there are some more lurking in the corners of my mind that I’ve forgotten.
What part of the Writer/Director Lab process was the most instructive and entertaining?
JP: Instructive: I tend to hear feedback and think “PEOPLE HATE THIS,” so watching other writers receive criticism and then rewrite their plays thoughtfully and calmly gave me permission to chill out.
Entertaining: Witnessing the writer/director pairs grow to love each other. There have been moments for all of us where someone’s face lights up and the message is something like, “OH NOW I UNDERSTAND YOU.” Also, Tony [Meneses, fellow Lab member] is gonna kill me for saying this, but he reads my play’s “dirty talk” really terribly in the best way.
How have your dramaturgical skills developed over the course of the past nine months?
JP: I’m learning how to rigorously search for the truth and impulse of a play and then write from that place. For example, about a week before I was scheduled to read a completed draft in lab, Jenny and I met up and she challenged me to rewrite a large middle chunk of the play. I went through 25 versions in my head of “I’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO GET THIS DONE” before I just sat down and simply told the story. I often think about how my plays behave sonically before anything else, but Jenny encouraged me to tell the story clearly first and foremost. The story will guide the sound.
The Lab has produced some pretty great plays. Looking over them, do any stand out to you and why do you pick those particular plays? [You can see all the plays if you go to sohorep.org and click on the Lab button at the top and browse thru the various years.
JP: When I first admitted that I wanted to be a playwright AND an actor, I had coffee with two separate individuals who happened to share a similar journey to mine: Jiehae Park and Clare Barron. I was lucky enough to see productions of their Lab Plays (Peerless and You Got Older). Jiehae’s linguistic precision is out of this world, and Clare’s deep commitment to telling honest and personal stories consistently astounds me. They also both encouraged me to apply to Soho Rep and now here we are! Thanks, y’all!