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Monday, October 22, 2012

Playwright Deanna Jent responds to questions...

As promised here are the responses from FALLING author Deanna Jent to some of the questions submitted from NYCPlaywrights web site visitors and mailing list members:

Q. As I believe you have first hand experience as resource to draw on for your play, what was one or two of the more surprising elements that sprung up or developed unexpectedly in the life of its progression, either in character or storyline?
~ Michael E.

JENT: I was surprised by how important the idea of the "dreams we have of/for our children" became.  In my life, the grief for "lost dreams" and the creation of new dreams has happening and is ongoing; I was surprised when I realized that Tami (the Mom character) had not yet dealt with that.  That character discovery showed me the way to the ending of the play, when she realizes that she has to "let go" of many things she's holding onto in order for their lives to move forward.

Q. How do you know what's best for your play when you're writing from an experience so personal? How do you separate yourself from the play so that you know you're crafting a work with compelling growth and conflict that works as a piece of theatre?
~  Michael P.

JENT: It is indeed very difficult to separate real life from dramatic life.  My process was to start with a few real-life scenes and then take those characters into new conflicts and conversations.  Through that I was able to differentiate between the characters and the people in my life.  Much of my focus in writing the play was on how I could theatricalize, or show, the truth of this family.  For example, the "feather box" that Josh uses in the play doesn't exist in my house -- it's a theatrical "device" to give the audience important information about Josh and this family.  The final thing is that I had many colleagues read my word (privately and aloud) and really listened to their questions and critiques.

Q. How close is the play to your actual experiences? Obviously you've had to fashion a dramatic work to hold an audience's attention. Was much lost in that transition, or, perhaps, was something gained in telling your story? 
~ Ken J.

JENT: The play is very close to my life as it was several years ago; thankfully my son is rarely aggressive now, but we still do face the very real problem of finding appropriate housing/living arrangements for him as he gets older (he's 18 now).  I gained many things in writing this story -- it allowed me to explore and experience the events of the play from each character's point of view, which gave me some insight into relationships in my life.  I was also able to have the characters say out loud some things that I'd never had the courage to say!

Q. When you write a play, do you start with an outline or do you just start at the beginning and keep writing until you come to the end?~ Elizabeth C.

JENT: Thanks for your question, Elizabeth.  I have done both things -- I think it depends on the play and on the way in which your are most comfortable writing.  For FALLING, I started with ideas for a few scenes and had an idea of a final image, but I wasn't sure how any of it connected.  So I just dove in and wrote many scenes exploring the life of these characters and eventually the dramatic shape of the story came together.

Thanks to everybody who participated in this project - Mike, Mike, Ken, Elizabeth and Deanna Jent and Jessica Ferreira.

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