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The Artist’s Journey – Without Walls (WoW) Festival Series: Jennifer Barclay of COUNTERWEIGHT: AN ELEVATOR LOVE PLAY - La Jolla Playhouse Blog

The Artist’s Journey – Without Walls (WoW) Festival Series: Jennifer Barclay of COUNTERWEIGHT: AN ELEVATOR LOVE PLAY

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It’s here:  The Without Walls Festival kicks off today, Thursday, October 3! There’ll be so much going on and a lot you should check out and experience for yourself, but we’ll still be bringing you a couple more terrific narratives from the creative people behind some of the WoW performances.

Moxie Theatre’s Counterweight has been a hot WoW Festival ticket and sold out quickly. In the course of this play, guests will take a ride on Betty Jean’s elevator, where she’ll offer up voyeuristic peeks into three couples’ stories across three different floors. Lennox and Gracie are packing for their post-retirement dream trip, Liv and Teresa are in the midst of a role-play gone sour, and Ed and Coco are teenagers on a midnight rendezvous in their school’s boiler room. Counterweight is a fun, intimate examination of love through the prism of closing doors and constant motion.

In today’s guest blog, Counterweight’s playwright Jennifer Barclay offers us insight into moments of inspiration and action that turned an idea into the Festival production attendees will be experiencing over the next four days.

For more info on Counterweight, click here. 

of Counterweight at Without Walls (WoW) Festival

I got myself stuck in an elevator at the age of 14. It’s a long story which involves soccer camp, a boyfriend, a bad-ass-girl best friend, elevator-shaft graffiti, and a good dose of the terror of having my neck snapped while I crawled through a two-foot gap onto the floor above. Ever since then, I’ve been a little bit obsessed with the terror and the theatricality of elevators.

I’ve considered writing a play set in an elevator for a while, but it wasn’t until La Jolla Playhouse solicited proposals for the WoW Festival that I had the opportunity to create a play set within an actual elevator. I reached out to Delicia Turner-Sonnenberg, my director-collaborator for The Carpool in the previous run of The Car Plays: San Diego at La Jolla Playhouse. She’s a fierce director and a generous collaborator who knows how to handle my dark sense of humor and the fine line that my plays walk between reality and something a little more than reality.

Delicia and I spent a couple afternoons riding the Playhouse elevator up and down. We took photos of the elevator and the three floors it stopped on. We timed how long it took to travel between floors and figured out how to keep the doors open without setting off an obnoxious alarm buzzer. We began to realize how many technical logistics would be involved in the play, and how essential it would be to rehearse our play on-site in the actual elevator as often as possible.

When Counterweight was selected for inclusion in the WoW Festival, I was already in the process of moving from San Diego to the D.C. area, where I have now joined the theatre faculty at the University of Maryland. Before I left town, the Playhouse hosted a workshop of the piece so that I could work with Delicia and our phenomenal actors and hone the script in person while working in the actual elevator. We got a feel for the timing, the rhythm, and the way the stories interwove. This is how I was able to further sculpt the script for this particular space, these particular actors, and the particular odd and lovely requirements of an elevator play.

Jennifer Barclay is an actor-turned-playwright, formerly based in California and recently relocated to Washington, D.C. Her play The Carpool was commissioned by La Jolla Playhouse and produced at the Playhouse in 2012 as part of The Car Plays: San Diego. Her plays have also been produced and developed nationally and internationally by Steppenwolf, The Old Globe, International Theatre of Vienna, Moving Arts, Teatro Vista, RedCat, Edinburgh Fringe, Kennedy Center, Samuel French, Piven, Remy Bumppo, Red Tape, American Theatre Company, Moxie, Stage Left, The Source and Collaboraction, among others. This year, she joins the faculty at the University of Maryland as an Assistant Professor of Playwriting and Performance.