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Quotes by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

Quotes by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ is the play I’ve probably read the most times in my life, and I love the weirdness of all the scene outs but especially the end of the second scene, when Williams brings a tamale vendor on stage to simply say, ‘Red hot!’
‘An Octoroon’ was written over about three years but premiered in 2014. I’m writing about America’s relationship to its own history. Race or not, it’s a story about suppression and oppression and many populations being devalued systematically.
All my plays have these titles that are oddly tricky. I like that something can look like one thing but mean two different things. Language is really unstable in that way.
All of my work is sort of fed by a question, a need to understand the world and why the world is what it is.
At the end of the day, most people just want to be valued. They want to feel they have put their time to something that will seem to have been of value when they die.
Family dramas are tough, as a playwright. Most stories are about characters going on a trip or a new character coming to town, because that’s how you learn information about them. But with family, they all know each other already. There’s years of history in every interaction.
How do we refresh our language? Why do we still use, like, a 150-year-old classification system to talk about people? It’s so weird! We still call people black and white?
I actually don’t read the press. All the writers I admire were significantly reclusive, and I’m still trying to figure out how they got to a place where they didn’t have to talk to press.
I don’t hate people who colour-blind cast, but I hate people who colour-blind cast and pretend that they’re not, who pretend that these bodies on stage don’t actually carry specific meaning.
I feel like I’m put in a position where I have to engage with what people bring to my work, which is an expectation for me to talk about race because it’s not normal for a black writer to be writing in the theatre.
I go through phases of watching a ton of dance/performance, and I am bizarrely well-informed on the subject.
I have a borderline-embarrassing obsession with pop music.
I have this thing called hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsies. It’s incredibly rare.
I identify as queer. I just don’t know what any of these labels mean.
I love television, and my love for it has made me curious about writing it. It feels like television’s moving toward something more novelistic, and that’s what I started wanting to do. But I can’t say that I’m dying to get notes from a studio. The artistic control that you get as a playwright is worth its weight in gold.
I seem to belong to a boom moment of playwrights, and I’m always curious about how we all got here and what comes next.
I spent summers with my mother’s parents in Arkansas, where religion felt very present. My grandmother was Baptist, and my grandfather was Methodist. Double Southern whammy.
I tried writing a novel, but plays were the thing that kept feeding me, asking me to come back, sit down and be with them.
I was 23 when I wrote ‘Neighbors,’ and I definitely look back at it now and cringe a little bit. I was trying to understand what drama was.
I wrestle in a big way with August Wilson’s work in that I at times admire it and at times feel infuriated by it, which is weirdly more influential than loving someone entirely.
I’m not a really firm believer in theatre that is ‘about anything.’ I don’t think theatre can be about anything other than the people who show up and the value that they hold.
My dream was always to have an experience where an audience member would turn to another audience member, a stranger, and be like, ‘What did we just go through?’ And, like, kind of begin to talk.
My mother had a wall of degrees in our house, and she would walk me up to the wall and say, ‘When you have this many degrees, you can tell me what to do.’
One of the most incredible and important things about the theater is that we’re creating a safe space for all feelings, but especially, ugly feelings.
Somehow, whenever we think about race or blackness in relationship to art, we always come in kind of nervous. We always think someone’s about to be punished or accused of something.
Something that happens to me is that I’ll write a play specifically from my own experience, and then I’ll inevitably be told that I’m being tunnel-visioned about it. People always ask, ‘What about that other race? Or discrimination toward those people?’
The first theater subscription I ever bought was the August Wilson season at Signature. I remember thinking a whole season to one playwright was a great way for a master to do a victory lap.
The stuff I write about doesn’t, like, necessarily leave people feeling warm and fuzzy. I’m writing in a territory that’s, like, contested and full of prickliness. And I find that people project their problems onto me or something.
Theater is an old thing. It’s thousands of years old. TV isn’t. Film isn’t. We’re doing a really old thing.
Things just kind of stick with me, and writing, for me, is always an investigation into my own feelings about them. I wonder why things stick to me, and I try to synthesize those into a dramatic experience in some ways.
You get better at the thing you do by having to explain it to someone else. That, I think, totally makes my work stronger.

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