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Lewis Center for the Arts Alumni POV: Branden Jacobs-Jenkins ’06 & Lileana Blain-Cruz ’06

Lewis Center for the Arts Alumni POV: Branden Jacobs-Jenkins ’06 & Lileana Blain-Cruz ’06


(upbeat music) – [Branden] The original
play of the The Bacchae by Euripides is about event that happens to the city of Thebes, where Dionysus, the God of Wine and Fear and Madness, all these good things, has come to town and stung the women and
sent them into the woods, where they’re kind of losing their minds and dancing, and reveling, and all these great things are happening. While meanwhile, all the men in the town are freaking out. We were interested in not
being in the city. (laughs) We were interested in
the version of the story that takes place at the party. (upbeat electronic music) – We were commissioned by
the Lewis Center for the Arts to open up the new Lewis Center complex. – Specifically the Wallace Theater. – One of the things
that’s interesting about working in a university with students is that a part of
building the play together is also teaching them what it means to make theater together. What’s great about a show like this is that they’re kind of
essentially learning what it means to make theater professionally. – I got a grant between
my second and third years to study physical comedy with
string mimes and handling. – We had this really profound moment early in our rehearsals, where we
noticed that the students were kind of asking
permission to make choices. They kept asking questions like, “Is it this way, or is it this way?” And we have to be like,
“Well, guys, you know, “no one’s ever done this
before so you are doing this “for the first time ever. “So there is no real answer, right, “you’re gonna make the answer.” And I think that was a really
important shift for them to internalize, ’cause it
was like that’s actually being an artist, right. So you are a part of the discovery. You are doing the discovery. – So when that train car
I was in jumped the track and started somersaulting down that hill, and I felt my spine– Stop and get to the top of the roof. I was like, oh my God! No, what! – It was really important
in the casting of GURLS to kind of be super duper
inclusive in that process. We wanted people from
all levels of experience, if that makes sense. – [Group] Oh my God, oh my
God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. – I feel, in rehearsal
rooms, a great sense of responsibility for those students because I’m projecting so fully into them. I feel like I can almost
recall instantly what it felt like to be 19 years old. (laughs) Not understanding anything
about how anything worked. Lileana and I first met
as freshman, actually, in Princeton many moons
and many years before either of us realized that
we were gonna wind up, A, working together with, B,
having careers in the arts. – [Both] Professor Sandberg! – Was really influential. Again, one of the people that
encouraged me to actually do a thesis show, and he introduced me to “For Colored Girls Who
Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” which I then directed in the Matthews– – Which was amazing. It was raining after one of
his classes, and he was like, “Walk with me to my office.” And we walked in the
rain under his umbrella and we get to like, I’m
like mouthing off as you do, and then at some point, he literally turned to
me, and he was like, “I think you’re a playwright, “and that’s something
you should deal with.” And then he abandoned me in the rain, and went on to his office. I remember, still to this
day, remember the feeling of turning around to go
back to my dorm room, and feeling like my life changed. But that was kind of the
professor that Sandberg was. He told you that and you were like, “Oh, I guess that’s true.” And like, here we are. – And I think about all the guest artists that kind of came in. All the workshops I took,
or the classes that I took, that I’m like, “Oh my God.” This is how I was first
introduced to so many things. And to think about us being
an introducer of things is kind of an insane experience, but it’s also super liberating and fun. (group cheering) – Lileana’s rehearsals are
famously, very joyful places. And I feel like we are being
particularly joyful here. – Yes, mine particularly
heartfelt. (laughs) – And sometimes, I’m like, “Is
this really unprofessional?” But then I realize, at least to myself, I think it is partly for the students, because I realize in some ways
they are looking at us like, these are professional, somewhat
successful lead artists, how are they behaving? And it feels important to
me that to insist on joy, being present with one’s profession. And we’ve remarked a lot
about how just freaky, intelligent the average student here. I mean, I’m having some
of the best table work of my career.
– Yes. (laughs) – [Branden] I don’t know that’s about, but like– – ‘Cause these kids are smart. That’s what it is around. – (laughs) Right. ♪ Come bounce to this,
come bounce to this ♪ ♪ Come bounce to this,
come bounce to this ♪ ♪ Come bounce to this,
come bounce to this ♪ ♪ Living in the city ♪ ♪ Living in a club ♪ ♪ Living in the city, they show love ♪ (upbeat music)

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