In this forum on some of the most pressing, controversial issues facing our society today, your questions will be answered–more or less–by an unlikely group of “expert” panelists: four middle-school boys playing videogames. Questions about race, gun violence, immigration, and sexuality will be illuminated in ways you never thought possible, if the panel can manage to maintain anything close to a focused, rational discussion.
Jack Novak’s original works include The Great Lieutenant Sprinkle Didn’t Save Me (developed & produced by Field Trip Theatre), Journeying Jack (co-written with David Novak; winner of the Aurand Harris Memorial Playwriting Award), Fox Cried (first developed & produced by the Source Festival), Crazy Weird (winner of the Dramatic Writing Competition at Adirondack Shakespeare Theatre), and A Decade of Wandering (winner of the Agnes Nixon Playwriting Award at Northwestern University). Works for young actors include Interface and Fanatics (both produced by Imagination Stage). Jack is also an actor, improviser, and teaching artist. He studied Theatre at Northwestern University.
A BIT ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
1. When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?
I wrote my first play in high school. I was inspired by the Playwright’s Project–a California organization dedicated to young writers–for whom I worked as an actor for several years. I realized that writing plays was a path I wanted to take in college, when I took a Playwriting course from Laura Schellhardt. She became my mentor while I was still in school.
2. How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
This play started as an exercise. I wrote the first page or so several years ago, after the basic image popped into my head. Last year I dug it up and picked up where I left off. I drew from my experiences–both personally and as a teaching artist–of middle school boys, who are a demographic where we can often clearly see some of the pitfalls of masculinity in society. I was, in part, processing my own history of being bullied, as well as my awareness, in hindsight, of the ways in which I was a bully without realizing it.
3. What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?
Wry, perfectionist, fantastical, self-conscious, scientific
4. What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
My playwriting teacher, Laura Schellhardt, as well as the playwrights Sarah Ruhl, Annie Baker, Will Eno, Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett, David Mamet, and Edward Albee. My father, as a storyteller–and, by extension, all folklore, mythology, and oral tradition. My work with young people. My training and experience in physical theatre. My depression and anxiety. My love of comic books, science fiction, and the super hero genre.
5. What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?
I love the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
6. What are some of your favorite plays?
“Tragedy: a Tragedy”, “The Aliens”, “Eurydice”, “Peter Pan”, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”
7. Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?
I have a couple new full-length plays I’m working on–one (which is a complete first draft) is about a refugee crisis in a fictional country, and is a response to the Syrian refugee crisis, transgender issues, and the ways in which people become intensely divided based on what they think is right; the other (which is halfway through first draft) is about a woman who runs a bed and breakfast, who has taken a boarder hostage because she believes he is possessed by a demon. She must convince a third party that she’s right, so they can help her destroy him. I also have an ongoing #twitterplay project, in which I am writing a play one tweet at a time. It can be followed @noodleonaplate.