Jenny Schwartz on God's Ear

October 14, 2011

This content is sourced from Time Out Sydney.

A whirling, wordy play about grief springs up at Seymour Centre’s Reginald Theatre this month. The director of the Sydney production, Jonathan Wald, interviewed New York-based playwright Jenny Schwartz.

Jenny, the play is about a couple who lose a child – so it’s very moving, but it’s also very funny, as well as hopeful. A great deal of humour comes through characters such as GI Joe, the Tooth Fairy, and a Transvestite Air Stewardess, and the songs they sing, sort of anti-musical-theatre songs. How did these characters and songs enter the script?
I don’t do much on purpose. My process adheres to that improv rule about saying ‘yes’. If I write something, I force myself to incorporate it into the world. For example, I wrote Mel’s line “I have the Tooth Fairy here. We’re waiting for you. Are you almost home or should we go ahead without you?” and then I decided the Tooth Fairy should enter. GI Joe and the Flight Attendant entered the play very similarly. I didn’t know they would enter until I wrote the lines directly preceding their entrance. Also, I decided to include songs after I wrote the line “And the fat lady will sing. With bells on.” After I wrote that line, I decided that someone should come out and sing.

I love the play’s language – how smart it is, and playful, and true to the essence of how people speak, in ways which are surprising and innovative without ever becoming inaccessible. How did you discover it?
My process is very exacting and intense and slow. I go over and over and over each scene until it feels right to me, rhythmically and emotionally, until I’ve mined it for everything it’s going to give me. It’s also, in a way, like ironing, where you start with a small part of the fabric and you keep going back over it until you smooth out the whole thing.

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