SPOTLIGHT: Donald Jolly

Donald Jolly

After spending months reading and writing with only the company of my studio apartment’s four walls, I headed out for a much needed break. My destination? A performance of bonded by Donald Jolly at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Playwright Donald Jolly has written a play that is set in the past but is so relevant today. It is an Ovation recommended, extended for two weeks, and sold out performances tour de force and you will regret not seeing it if you don’t get your butts to the theater for it’s closing performances this coming weekend. Check out this link for more info:

Below are playwright Donald Jolly’s questions for Playwriting in the City’s SPOTLIGHT Series:

Where did you grow up? I grew up in Washington D.C. I went to public schools in D.C., and I was fortunate to attend schools with very dedicated teachers who expected nothing less than success from me.

Where did you go to school? What was it like? For undergrad, I went to Dartmouth College. I was the first in my family to go to college. Being a first-generation student who was both Black and gay at a conservative Ivy League school in a small-town in New Hampshire was eye-opening (to say the least), but I learned a lot about myself and a lot about people from diverse backgrounds. For graduate school I went to USC, where I learned to make bold choices in my writing.

Whose plays would you recommend for emerging playwrights to study? I recommend young playwrights to read as many plays as humanly possible (and then read some more)! Young writers should read (and see!) plays from a myriad of different writers, styles, and time periods. Young writers should familiarize themselves with the ancients, with their contemporaries, with the classically revered, with the classically panned, with the well-known, and not so well-known. It is important to know what came before, and it is just as important to know what our peers are writing. Theatre is always evolving; it is our responsibility to contribute to that evolution my realizing that there is not just one way to write a GOOD play.

What about playwriting do you like the most? What is it that you like the least? I love that playwriting allows both the writer and the audience to ask questions, to challenge assumptions, to escape into fantasy, to face the facts … to connect with other people. Writing is scary. And it is not easy, but I can’t imagine living without it.

Your play “bonded” is currently playing at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, how long have you been working on this piece and what has the process been like? I wrote the first draft of “bonded” in a graduate playwriting course over 4 years ago. The process from page to stage has been … dramatic to say the least. But it has been exciting and scary and something I can’t wait to do again!

In a story that you wrote for LA Stage about the play, you mention that you are “passionate, if not obsessed” with history and myth, how do these two play a role in “bonded?” “bonded” started out as project where I was looking for affirmation through history. It is a play that uses history as a way to dispel myths, particularly the myths that say: gay people of color did not exist in, or contribute anything to, history; that being gay is unnatural; or that homosexuality was something imposed on people of African descent.

What is most helpful to you as you sit down to write a play? Confidence.

Are you a morning, middle of day, nighttime or anytime is good type of writer? Some days I am a morning writer. Writing is my favorite way to start off the day. But, I have found that often I am a middle of the day, or anytime type of writer.

If you could interview one person who is no longer living but has inspired you, who would it be and why? Just one person to interview? Hmm ..Maybe Harriet Tubman just to see just how badass she really was compared to how history portrays her. I would try to ask about where she found the resolve to not just escape from slavery, but to go back and forth several times to help others escape.

What advice would you give to emerging playwrights living in Los Angeles? Write. Read. See shows. And, as Glinda the Good Witch told Dorothy, “Believe in yourself!” At least, that’s what I tell myself, all the time.