Press Release (ePRNews.com) - RENO, Nev. - Jun 21, 2021 - Freelance journalist Jennifer Palicki takes a deep dive with playwright Jeanmarie Simpson in anticipation of the WHEN CHURCHYARDS YAWN unveil July 17th.
JP: Do you write at a set time or for a certain amount of time each day, or a scene each day, or only when inspiration hits you?
JS: I write like a crazy person until I can take a break from it. But I can’t take a break until the story is told. I go back later and edit like a fiend, but I really don’t rest until that first draft is done. I literally stay up until I pass out and wake up a few hours later and write some more. It’s not anything a sane person would do, but it’s what it is. Artists don’t really get to choose the way they work. As Martha Graham told Agnes de Mille, “Keep the channel open.” When the impulses are coming through, it’s very very difficult to take a break, to get lunch, to sleep. Those things can wait. What’s important is that we put the work on canvas or paper or whatever, so it doesn’t get lost. A few times I’ve had a moment of incredible inspiration and didn’t immediately write it down, and later I couldn’t remember it. That’s a dreadful feeling. I never do that anymore.
How did you come up with the idea for When Churchyards Yawn?
Last year, Arizona Theatre Matters produced an online reading of a wonderful Hamlet sequel that’s entirely different. A friend of mine, a well-known film and TV actor loves that play and wanted to do it, but the rights aren’t available. So I had this sudden inspiration to write a Hamlet in Purgatory thing. Then, last winter, when another new play of mine was in the hands of the dramaturg, I found myself with nothing to work on, so I got going on Churchyards. I didn’t realize it was going to be a comedy, and I’ve never successfully written a comedy, so I’m delighted and surprised with it.
One of the standard questions for playwrights is “Do your characters have lives outside of the slice you are showing here?” Obviously, this is an extraordinary circumstance. You’ve created a sequel to a 412-year-old story, one of the most produced plays in the world. You’re bound to get some pushback, no?
Ha! Oh, you know… whatever. No matter what I write or direct or the choices I make as an actor, there are always critics. That doesn’t bother me. What matters to me is that I had the impulse to write this play and I wrote it.
And here you are, producing it. Why not submit it for others to produce?
Oh, I have and I do and I will continue to, but I can’t wait around for others to put up my shows. It’s a physical condition. I have to stage my work. I need to hear actors say the words. And with this one, in particular, I need to immerse myself in feedback from an audience. Plus – it’s July in Reno, and Artown will be in full swing. It’s a no-brainer. People will bring non-perishables for the food bank and they’ll pay what they can at the door. We’ll have a lovely catered champagne brunch and a reading with a marvelous director and fantastic actors. We’ll talk about it and it will come alive. The play will be in us and we’ll be in the play. Forever. And it’s ephemeral – it’s not online, it’s happening LIVE with actual (vaccinated) humans. It may be only once, but it is essential. This pandemic has taught us that.
July 17 10am-1pm
Doors open at 9:45am
Admission: Donation Pay What You Can PLUS non-perishable food item for the Food Bank of Northern Nevada. Complimentary Champagne Brunch
836 E. Second St.
Reno, NV 89502