Playwright Jordan Puckett ready for prime time
The cast of Jordan Puckett’s Inevitable includes, from left, Molly Noble, Carlye Pollack and Keith Burkland. The play is part of San Francisco Playhouse’s Sandbox Series supporting new work. Photo by Lauren English
We have a Theater Dogs guest writer! Welcome Scott Lucas of San Francisco magazine. Scott st down with playwright Jordan Puckett, whose Inevitable runs through March 23rd as part of San Francisco Playhouse’s Sandbox Series.
Scott Lucas: With the opening of Inevitable, it’s not only the first performance of this play, but the first time any of your plays has been done, right?
Jordan Puckett: I’ve had readings of Inevitable before, though it’s had many titles and versions. This is the world premiere. It’s the first production of it, and my first production ever.
SL: The play is a sort of magic realism, in which a dying woman decides she’s going to stop time to keep her family together. Where’d that idea come from?
JP: Why would somebody be so interested in stopping time? How about if you were dying? I started looking at Huntington’s disease, which is genetic. You have a 50 percent chance of causing your child to go through the same pain. It’d be through no fault of your own. It’s pure genetics.
SL: The play unfolds in a non-linear fashion. Why?
JP: I wanted the audience to experience what it was like going through the disease. I took the play — which I had originally moved straight through time — and broke it up to be non-linear.
SL: You’re in your early 20s and you started writing this play in college.
JP: Yes. I went to Northwestern. I started writing this three years ago. In my senior year, I took a playwriting sequence.
SL: Where did it go from there?
JP: I went back to it this November and did major rewrites. We decided to do it at the SF Playhouse in December. It’s been shortened significantly. It was 80 pages and now it’s 65. We’ve lost five pages just this week. We’re seeing what doesn’t work and taking away dialogue so we can see the physicality. Lauren English, the director, has created this world that runs between reality and a dreamscape — not a peaceful dream, but haunting.
SL: What’s it like watching the rehearsals? It must be incredible to see the actors doing what you tell them – like something out of Being John Malkovich.
JP: It’s amazing, but it becomes a conversation. They say to me, “I don’t know why my character is saying this?” I say, oh yeah, that was from an earlier draft and it doesn’t work anymore. So we cut.
SL: I’d be terrified. I get scared whenever I think about someone reading anything that I’ve written.
JP: I’m terrified every day, but that’s where good art comes from. If you’re not terrified you’re not doing something that’s worth it.
SL: One of the big themes it deals with is the relationship between mothers and daughters. You don’t have any daughters, but you — I presume — have a mother. How much is personal in the play?
JP: My mother and I have a wonderful relationship. That part is not at all taken from her. Of course it’s impossible not to be somewhat influenced, but it’s much more of an idea study.
SL: What’s core idea, then?
JP: It’s this lovely idea that the world is constantly getting better because we as parents are sending out children that are better people than we are. We manifest so much from our parents — and we hope to pass on our best qualities to our children.
SL: What are you working on next?
JP: I’m working a play about the intersection of news and politics, especially on how consumers of political news pay more attention to the gossip.
SL: Anything else?
JP: I have the beginnings of many plays. I’m also interested in theater as a medium and how to do audience interaction without imposing on the audience. I have a piece that I’m working on right now that’s set in cars on the L line in Chicago. The actors are in the train cars with the audience, sitting next to them. It would be like four cars traced out in the seats, so you could see what was happening in your car and in the others.
SL: Parting thoughts?
JP: You should break your watch — see what happens.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Jordan Puckett’s Inevitable continues through March 23rd at the San Francisco Playhouse Sandbox Series at the Un-scripted Theater, 533 Sutter St., San Francisco. Tickets are $20. Call 415-677-9596 or visit www.sfplayhouse.org.