Fellows Spotlight is our blog series that invites you to take a behind-the-scenes look at our Fellows program.
We’ll be hearing from all our 2018-2019 Fellows: Jay Adana, Rae Binstock, Zeniba Britt, Erika Dickerson-Despenza, Mathilde Dratwa, Aryanna Garber, Charles Gershman, Nambi E. Kelley, Melissa Li, Benjamin Velez, Kit Yan, and Zack Zadek.
Each of the Fellows/teams were asked the same 5 questions, exploring where these writers have been, are now, and are journeying towards. Our Fellows took this gentle structure and ran, each submitting responses as unique and creative as they are.
This week we invite you to this conversation with Jay Adana.
What was your first experience with theater?
I played Becky in a production of “Gold Dust or Bust” (I’m sure you’ve heard of it) in 4th grade. I was the comic relief and it was the easiest audience I’ll ever get. I got hooked.
When did you decide to become a writer? Is there a writer, show, or piece of writing that was particularly influential on your path?
I set out to be an actor. My mom showed me a copy of “Into The Woods” (of course bow down to the mighty Sondheim) on VHS and when Bernadette Peters followed an imaginary bug on the floor, stomped it, twisted her foot and said “squooosh” I said that’s what I’m doing. I became a writer by accident. I was doing a show with a couple of friends from acting school where the story was told with movement and puppets. We were having trouble communicating what was happening in a more complicated section of the plot so I ducked into the bathroom (we were rehearsing in my living room) and wrote a song to explain what was happening. I loved that process and just kept doing it. That show was called “The Woodsman”.
How do you describe your work overall? What sets your work apart?
I like to blend old sounds with new. I’m most interested when you can take a little bit of both. For example I made a trap beat out of pieces of “The Battlecry of Freedom” or I’ll use rap rhythms on a folk song.
Can you tell us a little bit about the work you’ve been developing as a Fellow?
My writing partner Zeniba Britt and I have been developing a musical alternative history of the American Civil War with a dash of magic. Our protagonist is Polly, a brilliant black biracial mapmaker hiding just outside Atlanta.
What do you find most rewarding about your work as a writer?
There’s the moment when something clicks and it’s just exactly right and I’m not sure how I got there and it feels like I have a line dialed straight into the cosmos. That’s magic.