In preparation for Advocates for Youth’s world premiere production of Out of Silence: Abortion Stories from the 1 in 3 Campaign, I had a chance to speak with playwright Jennifer L. Nelson, author of DARNELL AND SHENAY, about her writing process, inspiration for the play, and the power of theatre to serve as a tool for social advocacy. Please enjoy this wonderful interview!
JACQUELINE LAWTON: Why was it important for you to be a part of Advocates for Youth’s Out of Silence: Stories from the 1 in 3 Campaign?
JENNIFER L. NELSON: I believe women have the right to choose what happens to our bodies and our lives and I fear that the current right to life movement may impede access to information, substituting religion-based dogma.
JL: Tell me about the play(s) that you wrote? What inspired it?
JN: My play is about a young, very low income couple, living in a boarding house as they struggle to finish their educations and make ends meet. When they discover they are pregnant they have consider how they would be able to take care of a baby.
JL: What was it like to turn this story into a play? What was your process? What research, if any, did you do?
JN: Playwriting is storytelling through dialogue. The biggest challenge is making information sound like natural conversation. I imagine what the characters look like and sound like and that leads to what they say.
JL: What role does theater have in advocacy work?
JN: Theatre—and all the arts--are just other ways to explore and demonstrate how people communicate. Through the deployment of creative dialogue and images, theatre can demonstrate how Issues affect individuals without making any one feel put on the spot.
JL: What are you working on next? Where can we follow your work?
JN: I am working on two commissions: one is a short portrait of a historically African American community in Falls Church, VA; and the other a full length play for Ford's Theatre that deals with girls and baseball. Follow me at www.jenniferlnelson.net
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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!