Jennifer Barclay

Jennifer Barclay

Jennifer Barclay is a Chicago-bred actor-turned-playwright, now living in DC. Her play Ripe Frenzy won the National New Play Network’s 2016 Smith Prize for Political Theatre and the 2018 Dramatists Guild Fund Writers Alliance Grant. Ripe Frenzy was developed at Woolly Mammoth, the 2017 Ojai Playwrights Conference, NNPN/PlayPenn, and had a 2018 NNPN Rolling World Premiere at New Rep in Boston, Synchronicity...
Jennifer Barclay is a Chicago-bred actor-turned-playwright, now living in DC. Her play Ripe Frenzy won the National New Play Network’s 2016 Smith Prize for Political Theatre and the 2018 Dramatists Guild Fund Writers Alliance Grant. Ripe Frenzy was developed at Woolly Mammoth, the 2017 Ojai Playwrights Conference, NNPN/PlayPenn, and had a 2018 NNPN Rolling World Premiere at New Rep in Boston, Synchronicity Theatre in Atlanta and Greenway Court in LA. Her other plays include This Profound Abyss, Housebound, Yellowstone: the ballad of the red-state white man, Obscura, Freedom, NY, The Human Capacity, Danny, Red Helen, The Attic Dwellers, Eat It Too and she is in the midst of developing a trilogy set in the national parks. Jennifer’s plays have been produced and developed by Steppenwolf, La Jolla Playhouse, The Old Globe, RedCat, The Kennedy Center, Center Stage, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Co, Andy’s Summer Playhouse, American Blues Theatre, The International Theatre of Vienna and The Edinburgh Fringe, among others. Awards include: Samuel Goldwyn Writing Award, Kennedy Center National Science Playwriting Award, Pinter Review Gold Medal, BETC New Generations Award. Jennifer has been a Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Hawthornden International Writers Retreat in Scotland and will join The New Harmony Project in 2019. She has been a playwright in residence at South Coast Rep, Center Stage and Arena Stage. Jennifer has a degree in Theatre from Northwestern University and an MFA in Playwriting at UC San Diego, where she studied with Naomi Iizuka. She is proud to be an NNPN Affiliated Artist, a member of the Dramatists Guild, and an Assistant Professor of Playwriting and Performance at the University of Maryland. www.BarclayStudios.com.

Plays

  • Ripe Frenzy
    Ripe Frenzy, winner of the 2016-17 NNPN Smith Prize for Political Theatre, is having a 2018 National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere at New Rep in Boston, Synchronicity Theatre in Atlanta and Greenway Court in LA.

    Ripe Frenzy is set in a small town in upstate New York, where the high school is famous for having done the most productions of Our Town of any school, ever. On opening night of...
    Ripe Frenzy, winner of the 2016-17 NNPN Smith Prize for Political Theatre, is having a 2018 National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere at New Rep in Boston, Synchronicity Theatre in Atlanta and Greenway Court in LA.

    Ripe Frenzy is set in a small town in upstate New York, where the high school is famous for having done the most productions of Our Town of any school, ever. On opening night of the school’s 40th production, a student open fires with an AR-15. Time is slippery as the play submerges us in the before, during and after of the shooting, using Our Town as a framework to examine what has become our new American norm. Told from the perspective of the mothers of the town, the play questions our own culpability in the perpetuation of mass shootings in our country.

    From the beginning, Barclay has been collaborating with projections designer Jared Mezzocchi to embed media design into the text as its own subversive character. The play challenges us to investigate the ability of media to spread our current national contagion.

    You can read the Boston Globe preview article for the New Rep premiere here:
    https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/2018/02/20/this-fictional-town-consequences-school-shooting-are-all-too-real/EwAYDh6Lo4NNSGTeT3r3jK/story.html

    You can read the American Theatre article featuring Ripe Frenzy here:
    https://www.americantheatre.org/2018/04/02/plays-about-guns-with-varying-aims/
  • Yellowstone
    Yellowstone takes place in Wyoming, at the border of Yellowstone National Park, in the summer of 2017. The characters are all working-class, rural, conservative white men—but they’re played by a group of multiethnic women. The tone is kind of a love child between "Cloud 9," "True West" and "Killer Joe."

    The play imagines that our current administration is about to...
    Yellowstone takes place in Wyoming, at the border of Yellowstone National Park, in the summer of 2017. The characters are all working-class, rural, conservative white men—but they’re played by a group of multiethnic women. The tone is kind of a love child between "Cloud 9," "True West" and "Killer Joe."

    The play imagines that our current administration is about to open Yellowstone to fracking for the first time, and the downtrodden characters are hungry to cash in their land so they can finally get a piece of their American Dream-- but then two of the actresses playing the Yellowstone men start to go off the rails. The actress playing Jack finds her newly-discovered masculine power to be too enticing to let go, the actress playing Robbie is too enraged to play a white conservative man with any sort of empathy, and the actress playing Ted has to keep the play on track if she’s going to have any chance to open up bipartisan understanding in the audience.

    In "Yellowstone," there are two plays happening simultaneously and feeding off of each other. What happens in one reality bleeds into the other until in the end they become indistinguishable, giving us a theatrical lens through which we can view both sides of the national political divide.
  • Housebound
    A diplomat and his wife take in a nanny from Cameroon to help raise their children. But what happens when she isn’t allowed to leave? In a darkly absurd look at human trafficking and domestic servitude, Housebound examines two mothers’ dependency on one another, fireflies, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and what freedom truly means in the United States of America.
    (3 F, 2 M)

    DEVELOPMENT:...
    A diplomat and his wife take in a nanny from Cameroon to help raise their children. But what happens when she isn’t allowed to leave? In a darkly absurd look at human trafficking and domestic servitude, Housebound examines two mothers’ dependency on one another, fireflies, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and what freedom truly means in the United States of America.
    (3 F, 2 M)

    DEVELOPMENT:
    I have been developing Housebound in a unique and extended collaboration with director Shana Cooper. First, Shana and I interviewed human trafficking survivors in Washington, DC over the course of several months. Then (before I had written a word of the play) we held a week-long workshop with five actors, a dramaturg and three designers. Using Shana’s Essence Work approach, we explored non-verbal creative interpretations of our research, and the designers papered our walls with visual inspiration. Then, I went away on a retreat to write the first draft. In both November 2017 and April 2019, we collaborated with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company for two additional (more traditional) workshops.
  • Freedom, NY
    In the year following a brutal school shooting, Justice Mayflower keeps her 12-year-old granddaughter, Portia, nestled safe at home in their garden. But their little cocoon is ruptured when Gabriel, a vibrant young Mexican, moves in next door with skulls and a shovel. Rumors ripple throughout the town, Mayflower clings onto her authority, and, in the middle of the night, Gabriel teaches Portia how to face death...
    In the year following a brutal school shooting, Justice Mayflower keeps her 12-year-old granddaughter, Portia, nestled safe at home in their garden. But their little cocoon is ruptured when Gabriel, a vibrant young Mexican, moves in next door with skulls and a shovel. Rumors ripple throughout the town, Mayflower clings onto her authority, and, in the middle of the night, Gabriel teaches Portia how to face death and celebrate life through Dia de los Muertos.
  • Danny
    Set in an African-American hair salon adjacent to Chicago's notorious Cabrini-Green housing project, Danny straddles two different eras within one room. The play begins in 2011; the last-standing Cabrini tower is on the brink of demolition, the neighborhood is being gentrified, and the salon is now defunct. Two sisters escape their mother's funeral to break into the place that used to be her sanctuary...
    Set in an African-American hair salon adjacent to Chicago's notorious Cabrini-Green housing project, Danny straddles two different eras within one room. The play begins in 2011; the last-standing Cabrini tower is on the brink of demolition, the neighborhood is being gentrified, and the salon is now defunct. Two sisters escape their mother's funeral to break into the place that used to be her sanctuary, desperate to find an understanding of the complicated legacy she left behind, and seeking answers about their family's involvement in the murder of a young boy. In Act II, we go back 27 years to the heyday of both Cabrini and the salon, and witness the story from the perspective of the mother and her two closest friends. Both acts use the same three actresses to explore the legacy of this place, and we are asked to piece together our own understanding of what happened. A play about motherhood, reinvention, and the place we call home.
  • Eat It Too
    Brett, an A-list Hollywood actress, was wronged many years ago in her little dump of a hometown. Now, in the aftermath of the housing mortgage crisis, she is finally ready to return home and wreak the most horrific kind of revenge. Loosely inspired by Durrenmatt’s The Visit, Eat It Too is a dark and twisted comedy that explores the fine line between the American dream and the American nightmare. How far are we...
    Brett, an A-list Hollywood actress, was wronged many years ago in her little dump of a hometown. Now, in the aftermath of the housing mortgage crisis, she is finally ready to return home and wreak the most horrific kind of revenge. Loosely inspired by Durrenmatt’s The Visit, Eat It Too is a dark and twisted comedy that explores the fine line between the American dream and the American nightmare. How far are we willing to go to get what we feel we are owed?
  • Obscura: a voyeuristic love story
    In an apartment building feverish with yearning, neighbors eavesdrop on neighbors, the government sends menacing letters and the past won't stop knocking. And through all the noise, Ned weaves a love story for his upstairs neighbor Salvia, luring her off to a land far far away.

    In Obscura, I am exploring public life versus private life, the inextricable interlocking of our lives with...
    In an apartment building feverish with yearning, neighbors eavesdrop on neighbors, the government sends menacing letters and the past won't stop knocking. And through all the noise, Ned weaves a love story for his upstairs neighbor Salvia, luring her off to a land far far away.

    In Obscura, I am exploring public life versus private life, the inextricable interlocking of our lives with strangers’ lives, and the theatrical equivalent of a three-ring circus. A production of the play might surround the audience with simultaneous sound and action, encouraging audience members to sneak peeks into the obstructed views within the apartments, gathering snippets of information like voyeurs.
  • The Human Capacity
    Set in East Berlin, both before and after the fall of the Wall, The Human Capacity follows the journey of a Stasi officer as he seeks redemption from the woman whose life he shattered. Both torturer and victim find themselves caught in a struggle to reconcile the horrors of their past with their hopes for the future. The play is a searing look into a society and a family in turmoil, and an exploration of the...
    Set in East Berlin, both before and after the fall of the Wall, The Human Capacity follows the journey of a Stasi officer as he seeks redemption from the woman whose life he shattered. Both torturer and victim find themselves caught in a struggle to reconcile the horrors of their past with their hopes for the future. The play is a searing look into a society and a family in turmoil, and an exploration of the human capacity for cruelty, perseverance, and forgiveness.
  • Tight Curls Today
    In 7 minutes of stage time, we rocket through 36 years in the life of three women who have a regular standing date under a salon's hair dryer chairs. A haunting look at friendship, motherhood and mortality.