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Jake Arky, Playwright of “Sexbot 2400”

June 17, 2011

Jake Arky is a local playwright, whose play Sexbot 2400 will be performed as a staged reading at the Old Town Theatre on Tuesday June 21st at 7:00pm, as part of our Play by Play: Cultivating Emerging Playwrights program.  Jake has also been a Teaching Artist for Playwrights Project for the past year.  Check out his answers below to see his inspiration for his script and insights into the playwriting process.

 

 

What was the inspiration for your script Sexbot 2400?

I had actually worked as a quality assurance game tester for a large video game company that will go unnamed (Sony Online Entertainment).  I took the job  because, even though I was not a gamer myself, friends said I would just be playing with new Sony products all day long, which of course, was kind of the exact opposite.  The world of video game production was very alien from any other work environment.  Workers are called in sometimes at 4:30 in the morning, are asked to spend countless hours playing and replaying the same game in an effort to rule out any errors, and then have to do it all over again the next day.  The most interesting thing for me was that while it was very much a male-populated workspace, women were overseeing a lot of the production and many of them were project leaders.  I thought it was such a weird place to spend your day/life and one that hadn’t been seen on stage before.  That’s one of my main goals of  being a playwright—to take the audience to some place they’ve never been before and show them something they never would have imagined was true.

 

What do you hope the audience takes away?

Disconnect.  Technology is obviously a great advancement of our time, but one to take in moderation.  I’ve only known a handful drug addicts in my life, but now I know so many cell phone-text messaging addicts and Facebook fiends.  I hope the audience realizes that there definitely is a place for technology in our society, but at the same time, it’s okay to turn off a gadget and connect to those around you face-to-face (and yes, the irony of writing this in an online blog is not lost on me).

 

What motivated you to apply to this program, Play by Play: Cultivating Emerging Playwrights, and why should other local playwrights apply?

I really cannot say enough positive things about the Playwrights Project of San Diego.  Really, there’s just too much.  Okay, you want me to still try?  All right, you got me.  I’m a playwright who likes to have a play written and finished and then bask in the glow of having completed a new work.  But as any good playwright will tell you – don’t fall in love with a first-draft.  The work has to be read aloud, you have to be open to feedback, and you have to continuously go back to rewriting…and rewriting…and rewriting.  I knew that if I applied for Play by Play, it would force me to critically listen to my play and go back to make the necessary changes, ones that would make the play better with each new draft.  I wouldn’t have done that on my own and I knew the wonderfully gifted artists who are associated with the Playwrights Project would push my work to the next level.  Play by Play is the ideal method for any playwright who is lost, stuck, or stubborn about editing a new play and making it a substantial piece of work.

 

Each Play by Play script receives two table reads with professional actors, before the Community Performance. Describe the process of working with actors, dramaturg and producer during the table reads. How did the process help you shape your play?

Actors and dramaturgs are a playwright’s best tools and I was lucky enough to work with very smart and very talented actors, as well as to have the wonderfully sharp Shirley Fishman [Director of Play Development at the La Jolla Playhouse] as my dramaturg.  Hearing your work aloud is so different from just reading it on the page—the actors are able to literally breathe life into your characters and sometimes they will say a line a little differently than you had written it, but it takes on a whole new meaning that works so much better.  If I could, I’d sit down with actors once a week and just have them read the pages I had come up with in the last seven days.  Same with dramaturgs and producers: Shirley and Chelsea Whitmore (one of the producers) were so diligent about not letting me get away with anything.  If something didn’t make sense, they’d have me own up to it.  It was a great checks and balance system whereby I had to take responsibility for my characters and their actions because I had a built-in audience (with the actors, producers, and dramaturg) and I wanted to give them the best show possible, even if it was a read-through.

 

Each playwright is paired with a mentor to dramaturge their script, in your case, Shirley Fishman (the Director of Play Development at the La Jolla Playhouse).  Describe the process of working with your mentor.

Shirley and I sort of knew each other when I worked at the Playhouse.  Right before I left, Shirley let me take a meeting with her and I just kind of picked her mind about playwriting and what I really enjoyed was that she gave me her honest thoughts and opinions.  I really appreciated that candor.  I knew when we were going to be working together on Sexbot 2400 that she would not sugarcoat anything, which, again, forced me to really own up to the work and be honest with myself about what the play was about, as well as why I was writing it.  Shirley and I would meet, we’d discuss the play, and then she’d give me a deadline for when she wanted the next draft, which was invaluable because then I couldn’t ignore the notes or procrastinate on them.  In my mind, I had a little voice in my head saying, “Shirley’s counting on you to go over those notes…to cut out some stuff…to clarify that one scene….don’t let her down, Jake. Don’t let Shirley down.”  Shirley not only assisted me in developing a new work, but helped me look at ways to refine my craft and become a better playwright, and I cannot thank her enough for that.

 

Did this program help you grow as a playwright?

Yes!  Absolutely.  As a playwright, I think you are never done learning and Play by Play was another great lesson about what it means—and what it takes—to be a playwright.  I enjoyed every moment of it.

 

What advice do you have for young playwrights?

Besides don’t stop believin’?  I’m so bad at giving advice, but what I can say is this: those long hours of sitting in front of your play, dressed in only your  underwear and eating handful and handful of chocolate raisins as your characters converse with each other only using your voice…all of that will pay off.  You are connecting with someone, even if you don’t know it yet.  Cherish that time, because eventually you’ll have to put on some pants and go back into the real world, which frankly, isn’t as fun as the one you get to create on the stage in your mind.

 

Sexbot 2400* will be performed as a staged reading on Tuesday June 21st at 7:00pm at the Old Town Theatre, in partnership with Cygnet Theatre.  This is a FREE event; $5 suggested donation.  Doors open at 6:30pm.

Old Town Theatre: 4040 Twiggs St., San Diego 92110

*This play contains mature content and language; recommended for ages 18+

 

For more information, contact Playwrights Project:

(619) 239-8222 or write@playwrightsproject.org

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