With the holidays behind us, the 2015 Next Stage Theatre Festival kicks into high gear with 12 days and eight different plays to chase away those winter blues. Playwright and actor Jenna Harris’s Mine, which opened Jan 7, promises to be a steamy and thought-provoking tale of lesbian love. Harris spoke with Xtra about what audiences can expect from the piece.
Xtra: What was the specific creative inspiration for Mine? Did you draw from personal experience?
Jenna Harris: The inspiration for this piece came from a few different things, but the main two were I was interested in adding to the canon of lesbian text-based plays, continuing to build our visibility in the theatre world; and I wanted to work on a play that either investigated or portrayed female sexuality, something that I don’t think is often done, and when it is, rarely is it written by a woman.
There are definitely personal experiences in the play, although it isn’t about a specific relationship that I’ve had. It’s more, perhaps, my musings on relationships in general: questions that I’ve had, things that fascinate me about them and then that added layer of the relationship in question being between two women.
How do you feel the piece falls in line thematically with your other work? Or would you consider it to be a departure?
I think in most ways, Mine falls in line with the type of work that I’ve done in the past. Although I’ve never written a “relationship” play before, let alone a lesbian relationship play, what excites me the most as a playwright is exploring relationships between people in all their various forms and iterations. The work that I do is generally relationship-based and hugely personal. At least this is usually my starting point.
What has it been like working with Clinton Walker? What do you enjoy most about that collaborative relationship?
Working with Clinton has been fantastic! From the moment we started chatting about this play, I have felt his abundant positive energy, enthusiasm, love, respect and commitment at every turn.
One of the really great things about this process with Clinton is that on top of being my director, he was also my dramaturge, which meant that he and I had spent many months going over the script and talking about the characters before we even entered the rehearsal room. He was also brilliant in that we spoke at length about how we were going to negotiate my making the transition from writer to actor, and how together we would handle any dramaturgical questions that would arise during the rehearsal process so that I could stay as focused as possible on being an actor. And this has all worked out very well.
How do you think it will resonate with queer audiences?
I guess I hope that audience members in general will be able to connect with or see some of their experiences reflected onstage in this play. That being said, I don’t presume in any way, shape or form that just because it is a queer relationship being portrayed that it will resonate with all members of the queer community. Hopefully, Mine will be seen as a valued addition to the already rich canon of queer artistic work that this city is home to.
What’s next for you?
Good question! Vacation? Sleep.