9 Questions: Arthur M. Jolly

February 12, 2014
Arthur M. Jolly was recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with a Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting, and is the playwright of more than fifty produced plays, including A Gulag Mouse (Finalist Woodward/Newman Drama Award, Winner Off-Broadway Competition, Joining Sword and Pen Competition), Past Curfew (AOPW Fellowship winner, Joining Sword and Pen Competition), Trash (Semi-Finalist Eugene O’Neill Conference), A Very Modern Marriage (Semi-Finalist Eugene O’Neill Conference) and a collection of ten minute plays Guilty Moments.  His plays published by YouthPLAYS include Long Joan Silver, What the Well Dressed Girl is Wearing, Snakes in a Lunchbox, How Blue is My Crocodile, Moby (No Last Name Given) and The Christmas PrincessJolly is represented by the Brant Rose Agency.  Upcoming productions at www.arthurjolly.com.

1. A group of friends is having a potluck-- what do you bring? 

Something English - Shepherd's pie or a trifle. Unless it's a potluck in the UK, in which case I'll do something classically American - Jell-O pudding with Cool Whip or diabetes, maybe.  I guess I like to be contrary…or maybe it's being different so you don't get compared to how they would make it themselves.  Hmmm.  What does that say about the plays I write?  Are they really different just to be different?

2. What have you sacrificed for your career? 

I gave up being a helicopter pilot and flying into the Grand Canyon every day.  Then again, I got to give up putting up with tourists coming along when I'd rather just be flying.

3. What is most helpful to you as you sit down to write a first draft?

Peace, quiet, and the three-year-old visiting his grandmother for a week…although I don't actually know, I just long for that and assume it would be really helpful.  Seriously, knowing the closing moment of the play, the ending helps - then you have a goal to try and get to.

4. I am a closet ______________.

I am not a closet.  Utter lack of doors and no coat hangers inside me last time I checked.  Why is that line there?

5. If for some reason you were suddenly forbidden to write, what would you end up doing?

Break the law by writing anyway.  Actually, I can write in my head, and just work everything out there and not tell anyone.  The script is just to keep it all somewhere safe while I work on the next thing.

6. Is there a book you read, play or movie you saw, or story you heard as a child that had a significant impact on you?

Far too many to list.  I modeled my entire childhood persona on imitating Lawrence Durrell - or rather, Gerald Durrell's caricature of his older brother in his biographical book My Family and Other Animals.  He always saw his older brother as witty and literate and acerbic and impetuous…and I wanted to be just like him, so I tried.  I apologize to my siblings, who bore the brunt of it.

7. What is the biggest obstacle or setback you've ever faced in creating a play, and how did you move past it?

I lost a hard drive with over two years of writing on it, including an almost finished novel based on the screenplay that won me the Nicholl Fellowship from the Academy.  I learned to back-up data in multiple ways, I learned that sometimes no matter how much money you spend they can't recover a disk, and I learned that some things can be rewritten, but not that novel.  I've tried to restart it, and it's too painful.  Some of the plays that were lost have been resurrected - I'll take ideas or scenes and rewrite them into current work - and I think they are better for the second go around.  At least, that's what I tell myself.

8. How has your writing changed over time?

I have become more attuned to my moods - there are times when what's going on in life makes it harder to write a comedy versus a drama, and I've learned not to force it…but I think the greatest change has come in the last few years now that I have a son.  I'm more aware of what I'm trying to say - or what I would like the world to be like, and therefore whether my writing is nudging the world in that direction, or pulling it back.  I think some of my earlier plays were written to be edgy and shocking…but I don't know what they add to the world by being in it, it was more about showing off how well I could write.

9. If you could ask another playwright, living or dead, to read your work and give you notes on your latest play, who would that playwright be and why would you ask him/her?

I don't know.  I have several playwright friends who give wonderful feedback…but I guess I'd say Shakespeare, just to see who actually showed up.  I mean, if you opened the door and it was the Earl of Oxford or Francis Bacon there, you could win a lot of money betting against the Statfordians.

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