Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Spotlight On...Jaclyn Backhaus

Name: Jaclyn Backhaus

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

Education: NYU Tisch, BFA in Drama.

Favorite Credits: Set in the Living Room of a Small Town American Play, my 2013 play for Theater Reconstruction Ensemble (TRE). I wrote it and played Florence Del Franzia, a creepy neighbor of a very fraught Midwestern family. My other favorite is Folk Wandering, a musical I wrote with Andrew Neisler and Mike Brun.

Why theater?: I wasn’t sure how my writer’s voice worked until I found theater, which gave me permission to build and problem-solve things in a room alongside intelligent, thoughtful, and caring humans. I also love the freedom of exploration built into the form and built into the conversation between what’s onstage and who’s watching it.

Tell us about You On The Moors Now: You on the Moors Now begins in a grassy alternate reality where Jane Eyre ("Jane Eyre"), Cathy Earnshaw ("Wuthering Heights"), Jo March ("Little Women"), and Elizabeth Bennet ("Pride and PREJUDIIIIIICE") all meet each other after they’ve rejected proposals from the men who loved them. It’s very literary, very humanist, very feminist, and also very strange and very life-affirming. It’s my third show as resident playwright for Theater Reconstruction Ensemble, which is a company of artists that spends awhile collecting and exploring and working from existing texts or theatrical styles before tackling a set script.

What inspired you to write You On The Moors Now?: I am deeply moved by the women at the center of those four books, and John and I decided to focus the next TRE piece on 19th century literature—so it all started there. While I was writing the play I was in the middle of planning my wedding to the man of my dreams, so I was thinking a lot about love and who you align yourself with in life, and that really pumped my gears up. Also, I’ve worked with TRE over the course of many shows and I am always deeply inspired by the director, John, and the ensemble of performers and designers who contribute to each piece. They make me write better plays.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I really like theater that contains weird characters and magic places, or theater that relies on the audience’s capability to make leaps of imagination. I love the work of playwrights like Anne Washburn and Annie Baker and companies like the Debate Society and ERS.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Emma Thompson and Bjork and Mark Rylance in something about living inside a volcano. Is it a play? A film?  A song cycle? An immersive app? Do I have to write the dystopian quest novel that it will be based on first?

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I’ve been recommending a bunch of things I haven’t seen yet because I’m super stoked about finally getting to see them: Chiara Atik’s 5 Times in One Night which is going up at EST, Kate Benson’s Great Lakes…, and the Soho Rep/TFANA revival of An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: This one is hard! No wait, it’s not. Anjelica Huston would play me in a movie called "I FORGOT ABOUT THAT" and it would be sort of about me but also sort of about a house on the edge of the world where the last person on earth lives.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: The Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo by Rajiv Joseph. He was one of the first teachers I had when I moved here. Then a few years later when that play opened, I can’t remember why I didn’t see it. I didn’t have the money? I was working? No excuse was good enough.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: "Game of Thrones" and spicy potato chips, often at the same time.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: I would be a winemaker’s apprentice. I would work in a very moldy French wine cave. Or some sort of museum curator/librarian who designs stationery in my spare time.

What’s up next?: My company Fresh Ground Pepper, which focuses on creating development opportunities for artists, is kicking off its 7th season on February 20th. Anyone can get involved and submit their work at www.fgpnyc.com! I’m working on a play called Men on Boats about the Grand Canyon expedition in 1869. And I’m developing another musical project with Brun and Neisler, a trilogy called Bull’s Hollow.

For more, visit reconstructionensemble.org.

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