Jennifer Jewell is a producer and actress who just announced the debut of her production company [VIDEO], J. Jewell Productions’ latest show titled "Raison d’être: An Evening of Pirandello.” The play is adapted from specifically selected works by Luigi Pirandello who was an Italian dramatist, poet, novelist, and Nobel Prize Laureate for Literature.

“Raison d’être: An Evening of Pirandello” blends three of Pirandello's most celebrated works that examine human nature and identity in his unique style.

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Specifically, the performance draws on "Six Characters in Search of an Author,” "Chee Chee,” and "The Man with the Flower in His Mouth." The play is essentially a modern interpretation of classic works that concern timeless issues.

Jennifer Jewell discussed the inspiration behind this play via an exclusive interview on August 23, 2018.

Inspiration, plays, and communication

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you first get interested in theater and what inspired you to start making plays?

Jennifer Jewell (JJ): During cocktail hour, the children in my family were always sent to another room, where we would rehearse little plays and come back to perform them for our parents. This was an especially big event around the holidays when all family members were present. Growing up on a farm, our performances were influenced by all the animals and various characters present. From an early age, I had many examples of all the hardships and joys that come with all varieties of life.

As far as what inspired me to begin making theatre, it’s simple - I found no better way to fully express myself.

Theatre for me is all about the five senses; I never felt like I was using all of mine until I stepped onstage.

MM: When did you first hear of Luigi Pirandello and what about his work most interested you?

JJ: I was originally cast for a Pirandello role by our translator, Roberto Di Donato. He was directing “The Man With The Flower in His Mouth” for a directing class, taught by Austin Pendleton. Admittedly I hadn’t encountered Pirandello much before that, and I didn’t know much about him. I fell in love instantly with his body of work. I have not put his work down since; I’ve studied everything of his I could get my hands on. I’m really drawn to the way Pirandello frames the existentialist movement, and further, I love how Pirandello highlights that we, as humans, do not suffer forever, that there is hope to improve - there is always hope in the work of Pirandello.

MM: Luigi has been gone a long time, but what makes his work so timeless?

JJ: It’s the whole existentialism approach. Pirandello is asking those same questions we’ve been asking since the beginning.

My favorite questions have always been ontological ones, i.e., Who are we? Why are we? It’s why we titled this production “Raison d’Etre” or “Reason for Being.”

MM: How did you select the exact three works you did and was it tough to blend them together to create an original piece.

JJ: We started with “The Man with the Flower in His Mouth,” and as I read and researched Pirandello more, I discovered that these three works of his were all speaking to me in the same way. I was looking for contrast in tone, but thematically all three plays tackle the deep seeded communication issues that we, as human beings, encounter. We may share a common language, but how often do we actually connect? Each play presents a different level and looks at the same themes, and they naturally fit together.

Theaters, audiences, and other projects

MM: How did you secure the Theater 71 space?

JJ: Through a connection with the church organist, we had used the Church of the Blessed Sacraments sanctuary to host a reading of “Macbeth” that J. Jewell Productions had done in March. When it came time to pick a venue, we decided to go with Theatre 71 because we knew the venue well, and we knew the staff.

MM: What can audiences expect to see—and feel—from this performance?

JJ: Our adaptation takes place within a rehearsal, where a company of actors is putting on two of Pirandello’s one-act plays. Audiences should expect to feel like they are a part of the process. They should expect to come along for the ride and to be entertained. The show also features an original score written by Chris Tench and Brett Ryan Stewart. Audiences should expect to be surprised by unexpected guests.

MM: Are you working on any other projects at the moment or have you any ideas about what sort of themes you would like to tackle next?

JJ: We are currently working on a few solo projects. We also accept scripts on a rolling basis to be considered for readings and fully staged productions. Our production company is committed to having all voices heard, and we are interested in works that document a diverse range of themes, communities, and peoples.

Check out the JJP website for more information about the company and future projects!

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The play will be presented at Theatre 71 at Blessed Sacrament in Manhattan from September 20 to September 29, 2018. Google and visit the “J Jewell Productions” website for more information.