Core Writer Rachel Jendrzejewski is workshopping Early Morning Song at the Playwrights' Center this week, in advance of its premiere at Red Eye Theater October 14-30, 2016. Joining her in the workshop are director Steve Busa; musician Skyler Nowinski; and actors Miriam Must, Megan Burns, Dolo McComb, Kimberly Lesik, Maggie Smith-Peterson, and Jen Scott. Learn more about Rachel in this mini-interview:
Your Red Eye Theater commission Early Morning Song examines "creations that consume their creator." What have you discovered about this theme while developing the play?
Red Eye and I have been doing a lot of thinking and discussion and exploration around how this seed concept, "creations that consume their creators," plays out in the world, for good or ill: from the nuclear bomb to the internet to parenting and beyond. For awhile, I kept coming back to money - this human-made construct that completely controls contemporary human life. But over time, Red Eye and I have together shifted focus to think more about mortality itself and the consuming stories that we create about ourselves, our place in the world, our work, our legacies, what will happen when we die. To some extent, humans create these stories (and craft them with very particular comforting structures) to cope with deep fear of uncertainty. And yet, simultaneously, here we live on a planet with a very uncertain future, in terms of how much longer humans will exist at all. So that's become the meditation of this piece.
I'm acutely aware that the premiere is happening just before the November elections, and there's a part of me that feels like I should scrap everything and write a play about the Republican party - perhaps one of the most potent current examples of a creation spiraling out of control! But ultimately, this play does, in fact, examine habits of thought and patterns of human behavior that are very relevant - getting under the skin of some of our country's political problems from a slightly unusual angle, which for me tends to be far more productive. As Paula Vogel and Erik Ehn both like to say, you'll damage your eyes if you look directly at the sun, but you can discover so much by looking just to the side...
What is the role of the artist in the community?
I don't think there's a single role artists play in the community; I think they play all kinds of different roles in all kinds of different communities. Sometimes they help us remember beauty and compassion when the world feels hopelessly broken. Sometimes they challenge us with ugly realities when we've grown too comfortable. Sometimes they ask questions that stretch our thinking in ways that nobody could ever predict or judge. I suppose most consistently, artists create spaces - spaces where they together with others can learn, grieve, rest in wonder, grow in awareness, awaken, be invigorated, be disrupted, take care of ourselves, take care of each other, challenge ourselves, challenge each other, build community, wrestle with complexity, break complacency, exercise imagination, dream forward what is possible. I believe human beings need this kind of processing space - and this practice in moving through the world with other people - as much as we need water. Maybe this is all a long way of saying that the role of the artist in the community is like the role of water: Many different functions, many vital to life.
How can artists support other artists?
Artists can support each other by rejecting the myth of the rugged individual and all the baggage that comes with it. Humans are interdependent creatures. That doesn't mean we are all the same, that we all have the same needs, or that we need to be together all the time; but I really do believe that we all do better when we all do better. So some ways artists can support each other include showing love and compassion to each other (which of course means showing yourself love and compassion first, often the hard part); listening to each other; making space for each other; choosing to work through conflict; sharing resources; and envisioning and carving out new paths forward together.