Student Spotlight: Anna Jastrzembski '19
March 3, 2018
Anna Jastrzembski '19 is a New York based playwright from Minot, North Dakota. She graduated from Hamilton College in 2014 with a degree in Theatre and Comparative Literature, and has used her knowledge in both subjects to explore how poetry, performance, and theory intersect. She is a second year in the MFA Playwriting Program.
We sat down with Anna to talk about her new play, Skin Flick City and her experience at Columbia thus far.
Tell us about Skin Flick City. What inspired you to write the play?
I was initially inspired by the life of a trans-man who began working in the adult entertainment industry of Los Angeles in late 90s/early 2000s, who then went on to become a public speaker and activist. I found his story and the environment he was coming from fascinating in all its complexities and contradictions. It felt like a real cultural nexus of things that I was interested in exploring through my own writing, such as society's relationship to gender, the body, and sexuality. I wanted to explore the trappings of binary-imbued language and the power in reclaiming words that have been used for purposes of regulation. That's sort of the core reason for setting out to write this play, but the story has evolved as my relationship to the initial figure has evolved. I've learned that he's more problematic than I'd initially realized, and I wanted to address this in the piece. The process expanded into a necessary dialogue between myself and other trans and queer artists who obviously have a more personal/immediate connection to the material than I, and it's been a really humbling and edifying experience creating this piece within that group.
What is challenging your practice as a playwright right now?
Fighting off an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. It's easy to feel like you're not reading enough, writing enough, or going to see enough theater, and I have to constantly remind myself to be realistic about what I can accomplish.
Who are your theatrical heroes?
Thomas Ostermeier, Sarah Kane, Brecht and Weigel.
If you could change one thing about theatre, what would it be?
That's difficult to answer, so I guess I'll keep it simple and say lower ticket prices. Which I realize is a whole socio-economic issue dealing with accessibility and how we quantify art, but it'd be great if New York could adopt even cheaper ticket prices for students.