Playwright Spotlight: Jessica Chisum


Playwright- The Spring of Hope (Quickies 17, June/July 2015)

BIO: Jessica Chisum (playwright, The Spring of Hope) is an actor, playwright, and voiceover artist. Her plays SUPERGIRL, YELLOWED, and INSERT QUARTER HERE were produced as part of LG! Theater’s Quickies. In San Francisco, her play PROMENADE was produced by Three Wise Monkeys and PHOEBE PHOENIX SAVES THE WORLD by FoolsFury, both of which were selected to be performed at the Last Frontier Theatre Festival in Alaska. Her play THERE IS A LIGHT… premiered in San Francisco in 2016, and her newest untitled play will debut at the Olympians Festival in SF in 2018. She was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Where did the idea for your play come from?

The idea for this play originated at the 14/48 Festival at ACT Theatre in January 2017; the theme drawn was “It was the best of times…” I immediately thought of Charles Dickens, and a community of people struggling to survive. I wanted to create a Dickensian world that was harsh and unforgiving, with familiar characters who acted in surprising ways.

What was your favorite moment in working on this piece?

As I wrote I found moments of tenderness and humor that surprised me. I was on a deadline (written in 5 hours!) and most definitely sleep deprived, but my favorite moment was writing the ending as fast as I could before 8am and wiping away tears so I could see my laptop screen!

What’s the most interesting thing you have found on the street?

When I lived in LA, I saw a brown polka-dotted swimsuit in the gutter and for some reason I can’t quite explain to anyone who has asked I took it home and washed it. I call it “The dead woman’s swimsuit” and I still wear it. Every time I wear it I imagine how the woman who owned it was murdered and all her belongings thrown into the street. I’m glad I have the swimsuit to remember her by. It’s a really nice swimsuit.

If you could instantly find something today that you have lost in the past, what would it be?

Before going onstage to perform in a one-act where I aged from 8 years old to 80, I took off my mother’s vintage white-gold engagement ring and wrapped it in a paper towel. After the show I was cleaning up my dressing room and I THREW IT AWAY. I imagine it sitting in a landfill until the paper towel dries up and disintegrates, at which point a crow swoops down and gathers it for his collection. I search eBay for it every once in awhile.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m excited about participating as a playwright again for 14/48 at Cafe Nordo this August, and have a new play making its debut in San Francisco in October 2018. It’s set at the dawn of the Roman Empire and focuses on the character of Remus, the twin brother of Romulus, the founder of Rome. There will be a lot of talking wolves in it, possibly some wolf/human romance.

Finish this sentence- “I love theater that…” 

“I love theater; that is a true statement.”

What was the best advice you were given as a theater artist?

How about the worst? “Decide if you are a playwright or an actor, you can’t be both.”

What is your favorite and least favorite word?

Synecdoche. Banal.

Outside of theater, what are you really into right now?

I just discovered Frankie And Jo’s ice cream on Capitol Hill… I recommend the California Cabin flavor: “Apple-wood smoked vanilla & fir needle with black pepper cardamom shortbread – inspired by the snowy back woods of the Sierras.” Ice cream flavored with fir needles, come on now!!!

Any other thoughts you’d like to share? (About Live Girls! Theater, Love, Life, Puppies, …really – anything at all?)