Playwright Jess Shoemaker Spills Her Guts Over Her New Play
Jason & (Medea)
Amy Hayes and Wisdom Tooth (www.wisdomtooththeatreproject.org) sit down with Jason & (Medea) playwright Jess Shoemaker to discuss her new play.
Jason & (Medea) will be making its west coast premiere this June apart of the Hollywood Fringe Festival.
Tickets can be purchased at the Hollywood Fringe website by clicking here
How is this play both “classic” and new?
Jess Shoemaker: Willa Cather has a beautiful quote about there being only two to three human stories that go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never been told. I think every story, if told from a true and human perspective, is both new and ancient.
What I would say helps the play to feel new is that the plot and themes of the myth speak directly to a culture that is grappling with the concept of both outsiders and female equity. That made “updating” the play very easy.
How did the idea for a Medea update come to you?
JS: Ah! The original idea belongs to my brilliant colleague, Janet Howe. She wanted to tell the part of Medea’s story that rarely gets told, the love story, but she wasn’t a writer. I was and I said yes. Having a team of people around you that challenges and supports you in collaboration is invaluable.
With what do you hope audiences will leave this play?
JS: Probably all playwrights hope people leave their plays having seen themselves in some moment of the play, having recognized something in an ancient story… that feels true to them today.
Specific to this piece? There are a couple of moments in the play that were written to spark debate about what really happened in the space between two people. Human relationships are so nuanced and difficult to interpret and digest. I think that’s true in life and I certainly hope it’s true in this play! If audiences leave with a recognition that what happened between Jason and Medea was not one person’s fault, that their world was exploded by two different people, I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish.
You’ve woven story elements from mythology and from your own imagination into these characters and their story. How did you balance and marry the two? For instance, Medea is quite funny in your play; how do you justify that quality with what she ends up doing?
JS: Hmmm. Well the seed of each character is based in where they end up. I looked at where each character started, and where they ended up and how the character got themselves to that point. In terms of the contradictions, I suppose I wanted to interrupt our expectations, keep us honest about these being real people. We perceive Medea as a grandiose tragic figure and the humor makes her real. We think of Atalanta as a statuesque, virginal goddess and I tried to make her the opposite of that. Their stories are both the same – but they look different than we originally pictured them. And we like it that way. I just… I hate very few things more than I hate type-casting.
What’s your favorite moment in the play?
JS: The Princess scene! It was written near the end of my process. I’d been reading and scribbling and typing and tearing my hair out for a full year. And I woke up at 3:00am, grabbed my computer and the scene was… just there. It was like transcribing something from someone else’s brain and it tickles me as though I did not write it.