Monday, July 28, 2014

Spotlight On...Jesse Schreck

Name: Jesse Schreck

Hometown: New York, NY

Education: Yale University, B.A. (almost!) in American Studies

Favorite Credits: Fall of Man (Yale Playwrights Festival), "Underachievers" (short film), Generations (Yale Dramatic Association Experimental Production)

Why theater?: I really like the constraint of “this has to take place on a stage in real time,” but mostly I just think I’m a left-brained person who stumbled onto a right-brain hobby, and then spent enough time on it for it to become a practicable (and exciting and challenging!) form of expression.

Tell us about Fortuna Fantasia?: Fortuna Fantasia is my second full-length play. The first one was a very overwrought and heavy-handed drama; this one is a madcap comedy, and I’m relieved to say that I’m very proud of it. (I feel like the word “madcap” makes me sound like I’m from vaudeville or something, but my computer’s thesaurus is telling me that my other options are “harebrained” and “foolhardy,” so what are you gonna do.) The play tells the story of a young couple named Claire and Jeffrey, beginning with their breakup (when Jeffrey proposes and Claire says no) and ending when they get back together (we’re told this at the beginning, so I promise I’m not ruining anything). BUT what’s DIFFERENT and EXCITING about this show is that the whole thing is run by a Fate-like narrator called the Ringmaster, who pushes the plot to fun crazy places. For example, he engineers things so that Claire gets arrested, and so that Jeffrey gets kidnapped at one point by a very determined, very paranoid woman named Kathleen. Basically, I wanted Claire and Jeffrey to seem like real, normal people, and using the Ringmaster as a framing device allowed me to put them in RIDICULOUS situations without making their world feel totally implausible.

What inspired you to write Fortuna Fantasia?: Honestly, I just wanted to write something genuinely funny. Pretty much every time I’ve been consciously “inspired” by an image or idea, the thing I end up writing feels mechanical and derivative. With Fortuna Fantasia, for the first time, I tried to just follow my gut (with a LOT of guidance from my theater group, Common Room). Looking back, I can tell that I was working through questions I had about randomness, and about what it means to have autonomy when your experiences (and so your identity) are based so much on chance. I think those are pretty standard worries (especially for a neurotic college student), but because I was just trying to write the funniest thing I could—the thing that would make me laugh the most—I was able to process and play with those questions without even knowing it, in a more real and honest way.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Oh man. The first playwright I connected with was Chris Durang (I played Jim—the climax of my acting career—in my high school basement’s production of Wanda’s Visit), and the two other playwrights I’ve since felt that strongly about are Tony Kushner and Edward Albee. I assumed Tony Kushner was gay when I read Angels in America—I mean, duh—but I’d never thought about Albee or Durang, and I was shocked when my roommate was like “of COURSE they’re gay.” I’m wary of the term “gay aesthetic” because I’m worried it homogenizes and limits an incredibly diverse set of works, but there’s something magical about how these three writers are able to use such giant, campy, uber-theatrical characters and dramatic structures so incredibly precisely in order to access very deep, subtle truths.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: When I was in tenth grade, I tried to make everyone read Hedda Gabler because I wanted to show off that I’d read Hedda Gabler. More recently, I really loved David Ives’s Venus in Fur.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
I outsourced this question to a bunch of strangers, and by far the most common answer was “a combination of Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep.” The movie would be called "Fight Club Wears Prada" (bud-dum-bum).

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Taking pee breaks when I don’t need to pee.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?:
“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift. I sing it in a German accent, which like, I could’ve put that as my guilty pleasure, but that would have been a lie.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Going to graduate school, probably for American Studies! (That’s the plan right now, anyway—I’d love to one day be a badass professor who writes plays on the side.)

What’s up next?: I’m making some final revisions to Fortuna Fantasia before we start rehearsing for the New York City Fringe Festival production (!), which is happening in August. Speaking of which, come to the Fringe Festival! While you’re there, you should also check out Dust Can’t Kill Me and His Majesty, the Baby, two other Fringe shows from Yale!

For more on Fortune Fantasia, visit and