Monday, May 31, 2010

Grub Tales: Jami Brandli

Jami Brandli’s work has been produced across the country, including New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington DC where she was a Visiting Artist at the Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive (2006, 2007). She was also a contributing writer for both stage and screen for the Elliot Norton Award-Winning production of “PS: Page Me Later,” a Visiting Playwright for the 2009 ATHE New Play Development Workshop, and a finalist for Disney ABC's 2008 TV Writing Fellowship. Her short plays are published in Smith & Kraus’ Best Ten-Minute Plays Anthologies (2007 and 2008). Her play, "The Sinker," won the 2009 Jury Prize for HotCity Theatre's GreenHouse New Play Series, and has received its world premiere in St. Louis in May, 2010. Her latest play, “Technicolor Life,” was recently accepted into the 2010 WordBRIDGE Playwrights Lab and is currently a semifinalist for The Ashland New Plays Festival. It was also a semifinalist for 2010 The O’Neill Playwrights Conference and a finalist for the 2010 Seven Devils Playwrights Conference. She now lives in Pasadena with her husband, Brian Polak, where she’s at work on scripts for both stage and screen and a novel. For her day job, she teaches dramatic writing at Lesley University’s low-residency MFA program in Cambridge, MA.

RUN FOR GRUB: How did you learn about Grub Street?
JAMI BRANDLI: I first learned about Grub Street in the spring of 1998. I saw a flyer in the Borders downtown, and although I can’t remember the exact words in the flyer, I do remember thinking: This place sounds perfect for me. I took my first fiction class with Julie Rold, and she was really fantastic at making the basics clear. At that point (twelve years ago!), I needed to understand the basics so I could find my voice.

RUN FOR GRUB: What has Grub Street meant to you?
JAMI BRANDLI: Without a doubt, Grub Street has helped shape me into the writer and teacher that I am today. As a student, Grub challenged me to take risks with my writing. As a teacher, Grub (specifically Chris Castellani) took a risk by hiring me to teach. In 2004, I had this crazy idea for a class where the students would write ten short shorts in ten weeks. At first Chris was like, Really? And then he was like, I get it. After about a week of brainstorming class titles, Ten Stories in Ten Weeks was born.

RUN FOR GRUB: What's your most magical Grub Street memory?
JAMI BRANDLI: I have a few:

1. The fiction class I took in the fall of 2000. I met Jane Roper and reconnected with Ellen Litman (we first met in a crazy fiction class at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education), and Steven Almond was my teacher. I didn’t know it then, but Jane and Ellen would turn out to be two of my greatest friends in both life and writing. Ten years later, we’re still in a writers group along with two other grubbies, Morgan Frank and Jessica Murphy. These ladies are extraordinary. As for Steve, he's still one of the greatest teachers I've ever had. He literally rocked my writing world with one sentence: Jami, you must love your characters. I’m lucky to say that we’ve been friends ever since (despite the fact that he and Eve Bridburg have taken much of my money at poker games).

2. Every Ten Stories in Ten Weeks class I taught. All those students were truly amazing. Like champs, they were open to everything I threw at them, and then they asked for more.

3. I now teach playwriting and screenwriting at Lesley University’s low-residency MFA program where one of my former Grub Street screenwriting students, Terry Johnson, recently received his MFA in Writing for Stage and Screen. It was amazing to teach him once again. But what was even more amazing was when he thanked me at graduation for helping him become the writer he is today. Now THAT was a magical moment. And without Grub, that would have never happened.

RUN FOR GRUB: Grub Street almost closed in 2001, but--thank goodness--it reinvented itself as a nonprofit instead. What would you have lost if Grub had withered away eight years ago?
JAMI BRANDLI: I actually don’t want to think about that. A good chunk of my writing and teaching life would have never happened, and I would have never met many of my amazing friends. Grub Street has influenced so much of who I am now that it would have been like a parent dying if Grub had died in 2001.

RUN FOR GRUB: How does the magic of LA compare to the magic of Grub Street?
JAMI BRANDLI: It doesn’t compare because there isn’t anything remotely like Grub Street in LA! It’s depressing. However, I do get to come back to Boston twice a year while I teach at Lesley for the Winter and Fall residencies, so I do my best to get in my Grub time. I miss you, Grub!!!

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