Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Spotlight On...Jessica Fleitman
Hometown: San Jose, California
Education: BA in Creative Studies Literature from UC Santa Barbara; Member of the BMI Advanced Musical Theatre Songwriting Workshop (lyricist); Currently pursuing MFA in Dramatic Writing at NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
Favorite Credits: The Average-Sized Mermaid, G Train Exodus, and Deuteranomaly. I’m also very proud of musical theater work I’ve done with my writing partner, composer Rick Bassett.
Why theater?: It’s a poetic medium, which is helpful for me because I tend to write a lot of characters who aren’t human. For example, in G Train Exodus, one of the main characters is a talking subway train. In film, so much of it is about what the audience sees; the visuals have to be persuasive. In theater, the actor portraying the G Train simply walks out on stage in street clothes and says “I’m the G Train,” and the audience completely buys into that reality without hesitation. It’s an act of collective imagination. I love that.
Tell us about G Train Exodus?: G Train Exodus is the story of a failed young artist who is trying to leave New York City forever, and the subway train who doesn’t want her to go.
What inspired you to write G Train Exodus?: G Train Exodus was my attempt to persuade myself that continuing to pursue a life in the arts in New York City was worthwhile, brave, and noble during a time when it felt anything but.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love theater that transports me to uniquely heightened realities, but always in the service of stories that, at their essence, are character-driven, universal, and human. I also love plays that walk the line between comedy and drama, because those feel the most true to me. The playwrights I most admire – John Patrick Shanley, Peter Shaffer, Tony Kushner, and Sarah Ruhl – are masters at this. And I’m inspired by the work of so many of my peers – particularly A.P. Andrews and Rachel Teagle – who always make me feel my feelings, make me laugh, and take me somewhere I’ve never been before.
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Brian Stokes Mitchell. I want to cast him in everything. Plays, musicals, you name it. He is talented beyond all reason.
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Scarlett Johansson, because I’d like people to remember me as the statuesque, beautiful blonde I always wished I was. It’d be titled, “No Seriously, That’s What Jessica Fleitman Looked Like. Shut Up.”
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I have so many. Pita and hummus. Chips and guacomole. Bread and really good olive oil. Basically, I’m just a huge fan of the Carb and Something-To-Dip-It-In genre.
What’s the most played song on your iPod?: Okay, I just checked, and it’s “The Way” by Fastball. What the heck? How did this happen?
If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: So very, very sad.
What’s up next?: I’m working on a new musical with composer Rick Bassett, and Manhattan Theatre Source is doing a production of my award-winning one-act play, G Train Exodus, in the Estrogenius Festival this October (more info at www.estrogenius.org).