In preparation for American Theater Company’s annual 10 x 10 Play Festival, I connected with the featured playwrights about their careers in the theatre, the relevant themes of the play(s), and the role of theatre as a tool for social change. Click here to learn more about the 10 x 10 Festival and please enjoy this wonderful interview with Jeff Augustin.
Jacqueline Lawton: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
Jeff Augustin: I didn’t get into theater until college, where my professor Dr. Scott Cummings encouraged me to pursue playwriting. But what inspired me to take a theater class in the first place was Gus Edward’s play Lifetime on the Streets. I read it my senior year of High School, in the prologue he writes “these are the stories behind the faces we see, but never get to know, their hopes, loves, dreams and desires.” Growing up in a Haitian community, I never saw my mom’s story or my neighbors on TV. I think theater has the capability to bring us into the lives of people we don’t see in mainstream culture.
JL: Next, tell me a little bit about your writing process. Do you have any writing rituals? Do you write in the same place or in different places?
JA: I don’t really have any rituals. But if I stay home to write I’ll end up watching Netflix and taking long naps. So I mostly write in coffee shops. I tend to write in one place for 2-3 hours and move to another. I’m very familiar with all the coffee shops in my neighborhood, and am very grateful to them if any baristas are reading!
JL: Why was it important for you to be a part of American Theatre Company’s 10 x 10 Festival?
JA: Typically when you write about a current issue it can take time for a theater to read it and if you’re lucky if they produce it, by which point it usually feels dated. There was something empowering about being asked to respond to a current event, one that (unfortunately) speaks so directly to the experience of my brother and male cousins.
JL: Tell me about your plays. What do you hope the audience walks away thinking about after experiencing it?
JA: My pieces are Sidetrack and Stop & Frisk, which follow an interracial gay couple in Chicago. I want the audience to think about how events like Ferguson affect our personal relationships and how easy it is to get caught up in the sensationalism and forget what’s at stake.
JL: What role does theater have in advocacy work?
JA: I’m the Playwright-in-Residence at the Roundabout Theater and I’m involved in the Education Department. It has been important to me to have a connection with the students in the program because when I was growing up I didn’t know theater was available to people who look like me or grew up in places like Overtown, Miami. It’s by individual artists—particularly artists from minority backgrounds— serving our communities that theater really can have an affect, so I hope to do more of that throughout the rest of my career.
JL: What next for you as a writer? Where can we follow your work?
JA: I currently have a play, Little Children Dream of God, playing at the Roundabout Underground through April 5. I’m also a co-writer of That High Lonesome Sound, which is part of this years Humana Festival.
About the Playwright
Jeff Augustin is the Tow Foundation Playwright-in-Residence at the Roundabout Theatre Company, where his play Little Children Dream of God is receiving its world premiere. He has been produced by the Humana Festival (Cry Old Kingdom; co-author, That High Lonesome Sound) and Western Washington University (Corktown). His work has been developed at The Ground Floor at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse (Krik Krak or The Last Tiger in Haiti); Eugene O’Neill National Playwright’s Conference (Little Children Dream of God); and American Conservatory Theater (in the crowding darkness). He is a New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellow, a recipient of the Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwriting Award and two-time recipient of the Lorraine Hansberry Award. Jeff is currently under commission from Manhattan Theatre Club and Roundabout. BA: Boston College, MFA: UC San Diego.
10 outstanding playwrights tackle race, police brutality, and community in Ferguson, New York City, and around the world. 10 inspired directors bring their work to life.
Join us on March 9 at 7:30pm for a uniquely challenging one-night-only engagement at the American Theater Company, as we are proud to present our annual short plays festival, 10x10.
Tickets are free but seats will fill up fast. To make a reservation, send us an email at ATC10x10@Gmail.com. Due to high demand, we are only able to reserve up to two seats per request.
At the door, we suggest a $10 donation to help us cover the cost of supporting the festival, though we welcome you to pay what you can.
This Year's Playwrights:
Jeff Augustin. Kristiana Rae Colón. Matthew-Lee Erlbach. Jacqueline E Lawton. Bonnie Metzgar. Dominique Morisseau. Lucas Neff. A Rey Pamatmat. Akin Salawu. Aurin Squire.
Kaiser Ahmed. Grace Cannon. Amanda Delheimer Dimond. Matt Dominguez. Azar Kazemi. Reed Motz. Hutch Pimentel. Tlaloc Rivas. Samuel Roberson. Conner Wilson.
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I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!