We posed five burning questions to Stephen Kaplan, writer of the new play Tracy Jones. The production will be Art House’s inaugural effort in its new black box theater Dowtown and was developed in Art House’s INKubator program.
As described by Art House, Tracy Jones is “a touching comedy of individual connection in an increasingly busy world. The main character, Tracy Jones, rents out the back ‘party room’ of Jones Street Bar and Grill: The Place for Wings and Things to throw a party to which she’s invited every woman in the area who is also named Tracy Jones. Tracy sits for over an hour alone, nursing her Diet Coke, waiting for any other Tracy Joneses to show up, and help alleviate her epic loneliness. Through her encounters with the limited guests that attend, this hilarious play challenges the audience to question loneliness, connection, and why we do the things we do.”
JCT: The synopsis of TJ describes a woman inviting every woman with her name to “Jones Street Bar and Grill: The Place for Wings and Things.” What interested you about that scenario?
SK: I’ve always been fascinated by the ways we try to find connection with others. We often assume that because someone shares the same interests as us, or the same background, or comes from the same town or went to the same school that that is what is going to automatically connect us to another person. And sometimes it does connect us, but oftentimes it’s just an arbitrary thing that we can put too much reliance on.
As far as names, I didn’t know very many other Stephens growing up and also didn’t know many Kaplans in general, so I’d always get excited when I’d meet another Stephen or another Kaplan – and another Stephen Kaplan, that’s like hitting the jackpot!
JCT: TJ is trying to alleviate here “epic loneliness.” Is that something you’ve experienced yourself or are you imagining what it would be like?
SK: I think we’ve all felt some kind of loneliness at some point in our lives. Even if we know we have people around us who love us and/or are there for us, it’s a very human thing to feel like everyone else is experiencing something and we’re the ones missing out. Social media has definitely contributed to this for me in my own life where, even though I know I have people around me, I’ve seen others experiencing something and felt, “How come I wasn’t there? Why is everyone else having a good time and I’m not?” I’ve very thankfully never been in the situations that the characters in the play are in, but I do identify with their need to reach out and find someone else to share things with.
JCT: She wants people who share her name to come to the bar. Why not all the people that share some interest of hers as opposed to something relatively superficial, like a name?
SK: We often look at our names as the way we identify ourselves. When we’re asked, “Who are you?” the first thing that we usually reply with is our name. So there’s a power to a name that can often be fully wrapped up in someone’s identity. So Tracy’s desire to meet other Tracys comes from her belief that those sharing her name will share this deepest level of understanding. She also feels that her name is incredibly dull and boring and that if there are others that share her name that don’t live boring, lonely lives, she’ll be able to learn from and hopefully be inspired by them.
JCT: Apparently she “nurses her Diet Coke” while waiting for other Tracy Joneses. Does she ever try the wings?
SK: I love that you ask this! In the stage directions, I actually never have her written as eating a wing. She eats some other things, but never a wing (though she does indeed have some very physical interactions with the wings!)
JCT: How did writing the play in the INKubator program aid the process of creation?
SK: I had written the first couple pages of the play years and years ago. I always had the title “Tracy Jones” and knew that it was a woman named Tracy Jones throwing this party for other Tracy Joneses, but after those first pages, I didn’t know where else to go with it so put it in my “writing trunk” as a maybe someday to revisit piece. When I was accepted into INKubator, we had to pitch an idea we wanted to work on and, for some reason, this idea came back to my mind and Alex Tobey, INKubator’s director, encouraged me to focus on it.
The support of the program itself as well as the incredible writers who were in the group with me, enabled me to feel motivated and safe in figuring out where to go with the play. Their feedback was invaluable as I’d bring in further pages each session. Also, knowing that the end of the program would culminate in a reading of the full piece gave me the incentive to get through a complete draft and to a place where I’d feel comfortable sharing it with an audience.
Tracy Jones opens Thursday, October 19 at 7:30 p.m. and runs Thursday to Sunday until Nov 5. Tickets can be purchased here.