For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed playwright/actor J.Stephen Brantley. His current project is a play titled The Jamb.J. Stephen is also the Artistic Director of the New York City based theatre company Hard Sparks. He lives in New York City. For more information about J. Stephen go to: http://www.hardsparks.com/ and http://www.jstephenbrantley.com/
Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.
I’m currently retooling an old play of mine, The Jamb, for a possible 2016 production. It’s my gay punk coming-of-middle age play. And I’m gearing up for a workshop of my new one, Billy Baal.
Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?
Billy Baal is an adaption of Bertolt Brecht’s first play set in the music scene of 1976 Los Angeles. Kid Brooklyn Productions director Evan Caccioppoli came to me with the idea and commissioned it from me. It’s really dirty.
Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?
As a playwright, Lanford Wilson. He generated a tremendous body of work and every play he wrote was different to the one before. I like to challenge myself to go somewhere new with every project.
Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?
People complain endlessly about the challenges of living in New York City, but I find the energy of it invigorating. I do try to get out of town sometimes too and travel usually seems to spark something in my writer-mind.
Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?
I’m excited about the possibility of returning to my play Pirira, which was developed and produced by Theatre 167 in 2013. Pirira tracks two simultaneous stories set 7,000 miles apart. It takes place during the 2011 riots in the African nation of Malawi, and illustrates the ways in which we’re all connected to one another, even from half a world away. It’s a beautiful and complex piece, one the I would love to revisit, especially if it reunites me with director Ari Laura Kreith. I’ve worked with her several times as both an actor and a playwright, and always look forward to our collaborations.
Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?
Working abroad – England, Ireland, sub-Saharan Africa.
Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?
I lost 10 years to addiction and burned a lot of professional bridges, but my biggest obstacle now is self-doubt. It keeps me from making valuable connections. I’m working on that.
Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?
I’m always connected to my creative self. Sometimes my creative self is tired and grumpy and wishes I would leave it alone, but we’re pretty much stuck with each other 24/7.
Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?
Negative thinking, particularly around money. I tend to think I can’t do anything without loads of cash or that I can’t possibly earn said loads as an artist.
Q: What is your favorite piece of art?
Bryce Canyon, unless that doesn’t count, in which case it’s Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album.
Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?
Moses. But Madonna and Rabindranath Tagore are way up there.
Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?
Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
Self-pity. And cake.
Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?
You are worthy.
Q: Where would you most like to live?
Across the street – rooftop solarium!
Q: What is your idea of success?
Freedom to do the work you love and share it with those who need it, without having to compromise your vision for critical, cultural or financial constraints.
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
Rehearsal. See also: above.
Q: Final Thoughts?