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Welcome Home by Jennie Olson Six

November 23, 2012

Photo by Paul Savage Photography

Jennie Olson Six is a local emerging playwright taking part in Playwrights Village, a partnership between Playwrights Project and New Village Arts. The program offers selected writers the opportunity to hear their plays read by actors, work one-on-one with theatre experts to further develop their plays, and engage in discussion with the audience. The program culminates in a workshop production at New Village Arts Theatre.  Jennie’s play, Welcome Home, directed by Manny Fernandes and dramaturged by Olivia Espinosa, delves into the issues a young woman faces as she returns from an extended stay across the world, and reenters everyday life with her family. Below are Jennie’s responses to questions posed by Derek Charles Livingston Playwrights Project’s Program Manager and Producer.

You’ve been working on Welcome Home on and off for a few years; what about this story keeps you returning to the play?

These three women have set up shop in my head. I never felt like I really finished the story in the way that I wanted. And I had little nagging supporters that had seen a reading and kept nudging me to finish it.

A lot of people will recognize the family arguments and tensions in our play; what do you want us to understand about family fights and family love?

Family can sometimes be the friend that you no longer want in your life. But they’re family. You can’t get rid of them sometimes. But at the end of the day does the argument get won or does love win?

Caroline, your main character, is…welll… a mess! She’s had an affair with her boss, she’s lost her job, she’s drinking too much, and she’s sleeping around. She’s stuck. Yet, I’m laughing (in a good way). What are the challenges of writing her and still keeping us laughing?

She’s a mess. It’s kind of funny, and it’s kind of sad. It’s finding the balance between and not judging her in the process that I hope comes across in the play.

The women in your play have complications with their romantic relationships, and yet Welcome Home doesn’t feel as if it’s laying blame against men nor do these women feel victimized. What qualities did you choose for them to strike this balance?

I wanted Caroline to be a really smart, driven woman. These qualities both hurt and help her get through. Her mother Lavinnea has this obstinance about her that I think keeps her going. And Amy (her sister) has a determination to make things work, no matter what.

You have a TV that talks to Caroline and she talks to it. How did you strike upon this idea? And how did you choose when the TV would speak directly to her?

The TV has been in the play from the beginning as a sort of noise in the background. I had a friend direct an earlier reading who suggested that maybe the TV should speak and that’s when the light-bulb came on. There are various times that the TV speaks indirectly and directly and there are different reasons for each time. I hope the audience can figure out what those reasons are.

Your play’s family has a lot of great, interesting secrets. This theme seems to stretch across the history of drama itself — Oedipus, A Doll’s House, Long Day’s Journey into Night, August: Osage County. Why do you think family secrets still work for good drama, and why did you choose to have them in your play?

I’m still finding out my family secrets! I think we tell ourselves how we grow up sometimes and who the people are that we grew up with, and it’s such a surprise to find out the truth. I didn’t necessary choose to have family secrets in the play. But what I wanted to tell was this story of how a woman goes back ‘home’ with the idea of what ‘home’ is and finding out her idea is far from reality. So family secrets were a part of the package.

So far, during this Playwrights Village process, you’ve had this version of your play read by professional actors, received feedback from Playwrights Project’s and New Village Art’s staffs (twice!), and worked with a dramaturg; and you’re only 1/3 of the way through. Even at this point in the process, how do you think what you’ve learned will affect your process when you start your next play?

Having feedback from trusted professionals is so important. But also being able to work with a dramaturg has really given me a new appreciation for that being a part of the process. I am actually working on another piece, and that piece is already in a much different place than it would be had I not been exposed to this process and have ideas that I think about while writing.

What are you hoping to have happen with this play when you finish this process?

The play has never been in a form that I would submit it anywhere, so it will be time to send it off into the world and see where it goes.

A Staged Reading of Welcome Home takes place at New Village Arts Theatre on Monday, November 26th at 7 pm.

Reserve tickets by emailing write@plawyrightsproject.org or calling 619-239-8222. A $5 donation is recommended or Pay-What-You-Can.

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