Playwright Spotlight: Jennifer Maisel

#sandy [Quickies Vol. 14June 2013]


Where did the idea for #sandy come from?
Last fall my play, THE LAST SEDER, was opening in New York and Hurricane Sandy struck the first week of our rehearsals.   We were lucky in that we lost only the first few days of rehearsal, but there was a lot of tough going for several in the cast who were displaced.  I live in LA now but I grew up on Long Island in East Rockaway, and the photos and stories from my relatives and friends resonated.  And then gas lines – being stuck for hours in such a hugely stressful time, it just seemed like fertile ground.

What was your favorite moment in working on this piece?
I had written a draft of it and brought it in to members reading night at Ensemble Studio Theatre in LA, where two great actors (Lauri Hendler and James Dumont) rocked it.  They were supposed to rehearse it briefly first,  but it’s LA so they got caught in traffic and they read it for the first time together with the audience.  It was powerful and surprising and told me so much about what was working and not working in the piece.

What projects are you currently working on?
I’m polishing my play OUT OF ORBIT,  about a scientist torn between motherhood and Mars, that was just read at Cal Tech with an audience of Jet Propulsion Lab scientists, who gave fascinating feedback.  And I’m working on a new play (early early stages) and a collection of pieces called THIRD PERSON.

Finish the sentence- “I love theater that…”
that reiterates to me the importance of being present and in community, that sparks a collective shiver.

Who is your current artist crush (any discipline)?
I actually am going to pinpoint my (almost) 11 year old daughter and her friends as my artistic crushes right now – these kids don’t have the “it’s not good enough” filter yet.  Their art and writing is fresh and committed.  It’s hard sometimes for me in the midst of creating  to remember that the act of  creating needs to be without boundaries.

What was the best advice you were even given as a theater artist?
Just one of those things I’ve never forgotten – Maria Irene Fornes saying – “ sometimes you must write and sometimes you must sleep.”

What is the one thing you know as an artist now that you wish you could tell your younger self?
Accept now that it’s extraordinarily hard to make a living in theatre and do it anyway.

Outside of theater, what are you really into right now?
 books books books, always books….

What is your favorite and least favorite word?
least favorite – tufts.   favorite word of this week – baffled.

Any other toughts you’d like to share? (About Live Girls! Theater, Quickies, Love, Life, Puppies, Ponies…really – anything at all?)
Just that I’m excited to start a relationship with Live Girls!

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Jennifer’s Pen West Literary Award finalist There or Here was workshopped at PlayPenn before its critically acclaimed run at New York’s Hypothetical Theatre.  Her The Last Seder recently premiered Off-Broadway after productions in Chicago, D.C. and Los Angeles.  Plays include Goody Fucking Two Shoes (ATL’s Humana Festival), birds (Rorschach Theatre), Eden (Theatre of NOTE, Original Works Publishing). Awards: Kennedy Center’s Fund for New American Plays Award, Charlotte Woolard and Roger L. Stevens awards;  SCR’s California Playwrights Competition; two time PEN West Literary Award finalist; five time Heideman Award finalist, STAGES International finalist.  She received an Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan foundation commission for Out of Orbit, developed at the Sundance Theatre Lab.   She and Amy Feinberg workshopped MATCH at the Inaugural University of the Arts Playwrights Festival before its presentation at the Great Plains Theatre Conference.  She also writes for film and television. Her website is