Award-winning playwright comes to UR

October 8, 2019
Two-time Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins will give a talk on campus.

On Friday, October 25, at 8 p.m., Obie award-winning and two-time Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins will give a talk on campus in Camp Concert Hall. 

Jacobs-Jenkins is a 34-year-old American playwright who won the 2014 Obie Award for Best New American Play, for his plays Appropriate (2012) and An Octoroon (2014). His plays Gloria (2015) and Everybody (2017) were finalists for the 2016 and 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, respectively. 

Jacobs-Jenkins’s plays are often told from a historical perspective to comment on modern-day society and its issues surrounding identity, race, class, and family.  Appropriate discusses racial relations in the past and present through a grieving white family when they discover a dark secret of their deceased father’s past. In Gloria, Jacobs-Jenkins satirizes the competitive modern workplace while urging his audience to rethink the way we view representation. 

Professor of English Bertram Ashe has seen four of Jacobs-Jenkins’ plays and looks forward to seeing more productions of them by the time the playwright comes to campus.

“Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is unafraid of offending his audience’s delicate sensibilities, especially since we live in an era of ‘delicate sensibilities,’” said Ashe. “He dreams up situations and plots and then plays them out to the end, and sometimes they are bruising and confrontational, but always in a thoughtful manner.”

The Department of Theatre and Dance will put on Appropriate the first weekend in October, which will mark the fourth Jacobs-Jenkins play offered in Richmond in the last 18 months, after Virginia Rep’s Gloria, TheatreLAB’s An Octoroon, and the Virginia Rep version of Appropriate.

“It’s one thing to see the plays themselves, but what’s really happening when viewing a play is that we’re seeing the artwork of the playwright, in motion, on-stage,” Ashe said. “He’s got a lot to say with his plays, on-stage, and he’ll have a lot to say, himself, on a stage. The mind that produced these plays is compelling; it’ll be interesting to see—and hear—what’s on that mind.”