Meet JESSICA ~ Director for “Waiting for Lefty”

Jessica Jennings - Director for "Waiting for Lefty"
Jessica Jennings – Director for “Waiting for Lefty”

Everyone has a tipping point – a point at which we are finally unwilling to suffer, a point at which we will no longer be victims of our circumstances.
I found my passion for this play in the idea that what was relevant in 1935 for Clifford Odets, is still relevant today. Circumstances change, but man is still fighting his wife, fighting his union, fighting the system, capitalism, nation and the world — fighting, fighting, fighting. I asked myself is this an ingrained issue? There’s enough fodder here to fuel philosophical debates for centuries! To cut to the chase, I’m interested in the ‘inherited’ stories.

My favorite exchange in the play are the only lines that actually repeat: “don’t change the subject” / “This is the subject!” This is said between Joe & Edna in Episode 1, and again between Irv and Florrie in Episode 3; and became the focal point for my choice to alter the timelines. In my adaptation we follow three generations of the families in Carrol Gardens/Cobble Hill and come face-to-face with their ‘inherited’ strife as well as success.  By ‘inherited’ I mean we actually do learn by first imitating our parents, and later we speak, walk, eat and repeat the same sayings passed down from our grandparents, parents and community in general. Their struggles and successes become our values, and wind their way into the struggles and successes of our own time.

I’d never heard of an adaptation of Waiting for Lefty and now I believe it’s because it’s hard! The language of the play is so ingrained in the 1930’s, and in tampering some effect can be lost. But it was important to me to bring portions of the play into different eras; to drop the audience in the moments that defined American History: from the Great Depression to Vietnam and even 9/11. In doing so we’ve brought to Odets’ original piece the notion that history repeats itself.  My rhetorical question: What, if anything, might break the cycle?

You probably can’t help but notice the production precedes the impeding 2012 election. While you’re considering if you should or should not ‘bother’ to vote and telling yourself “one man can’t make a difference” – remember Edna’s exclamation: “Who says one? I’m talkin’ about a hundred, a million!“ individuals with the right to speak up.

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