Artists in their own words: Jackie Alexander
Who: Jackie Alexander
Where: Between New York and New Orleans
Artist’s chosen location for interview: Rue de la Course
Q: If someone were to make an art exhibit based off your writing process, what items would the exhibit include?
A: It always starts with home, so there would be pictures of home and friends. There would be some representations of conversations with friends—stories, memories, and personal issues that they’re going through.
I normally start with an issue that I want to address. Then I add a flavor of home because people find New Orleans so fascinating. Then there’s an element of universality. My writing has the touches of home and can also reach people in all different parts of the world and life. Place is a huge element as well. Almost everything I’ve written has been set in New Orleans. The one play that doesn’t take place in New Orleans is called The Desire, and it’s about people from New Orleans. [Laughing]. They just happen to be in Long Island.
It’s interesting because people always want to know what part of me is in the work I create. There is a bit of me, and there are some elements of my friends’ lives. The story itself, though, takes on its own life.
My newest play, The High Priestess of Dark Alley, examines a woman’s journey to rediscovering her true self. This idea was born out of conversations with female friends about how certain relationships—at some point—robbed them of who they were. These relationships were with men, their mother, their sisters, or society in general. There is so much in society that tries to dictate who women will become. Even women who reject those ideas still get confronted with the outside pressure of: you’re supposed to get married, you’re supposed to have kids, and that can be so overwhelming. In this play, the lead character shares a story of how a young girl is told at five years old that one day she will marry a Prince and that is the path to happiness. The indoctrination starts so young.
Q: When do candles come into play in your life?
A: When I need to relax. I am being very literal here. But candles seem to come into play when I’m stopping and ready to sit and listen to music. There is something soothing about them, so there’s always an element of relaxation with them.
I have finally found my favorite scent of candle as well. Of course, now I can’t remember the name or who makes the candle. A friend gave it to me, and I can picture it, but I can’t remember the name. Anyway, my friend had this candle in her house, I loved it, and then I looked at the bottom and saw the price. I had no idea candles could be so expensive.
Q: How many chances do you think someone should get?
A: I am a big believer in forgiveness, and you want to believe that people will change eventually.
Wow, it’s really hard to determine how many chances are needed, but I guess it comes down to if the person has attempted and is attempting to make a change and if you believe them. You have to find a way to give them a chance, and a lot of this depends on how the person approaches it.
It’s funny because all the characters in my writings are forgiven. I don’t think that anybody is all bad. I don’t think an actor can play a character that’s all bad. I guess you could say that there’s nothing redeemable about Charles Manson, but I always look for a reason to forgive.
Q: Where (location-wise) do you miss daydreaming?
A: This is interesting. I think I can always get back to the place where I daydream. There’s no specific spot I have to be in physically in order to daydream. I mean, there are some places that influenced or helped my writing that aren’t the same anymore, so I couldn’t go back to those.
Anguilla is one of my favorite places. It’s an island right off of St. Martin, and I went there to write my novel in a friend's guesthouse. It was so quiet and beautiful, and this was about ten years ago.
The place was incredibly peaceful, and it was completely undeveloped. There was something about the energy in that place that was perfect for that time.
I have been back there a couple of times since then, and now it’s more developed. When I first went, there were only one or two traffic lights. Now there’s a golf course, there are more resorts, and people have been snatching up beachfront properties. I”m told Chuck Norris was actually the first person to buy a beachfront property, and after that it just started to go crazy. But not having the place doesn’t make me not able to daydream.
I mean, I was born in New Orleans, and then we moved out to Gonzales, and we had a huge field behind the house there. I spent a lot of time out there wandering around. But, I can still get to that space in my head. I’m not geographically specific.
I keep wondering why it is that I don’t need a specific place to daydream, but I don’t really have an answer to that. And, there is something wonderful about never being able to have an experience again.
Q: Whose notebook would you like to be given as a gift?
A: A friend of mine got a notebook of W.E.B. Dubois. It’s his writings, and I have no idea how my friend got that notebook. There was some weird story that involved his great great great grandfather or something. He showed it to me, and said, ‘Can you believe I have this?’
And I couldn’t believe it. [Laughing].
For me, I would love to have Nelson Mandela’s notebook. I think I would read that all the time. I can’t think of anyone who had a more inspiring journey in life. It’s funny, that answer came to me right away.
Jackie Alexander’s play The High Priestess of Dark Alley is currently playing at Le Petit Theatre from July 7 until July 24. They are offering 20% off preview performances Thursday, July 7 and Friday, July 8 at 7:30pm and Saturday July, 9 at 3pm. You can also learn more about Jackie and his work on his website.