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Stories, Weekly Interviews, things to see and footnotes.
Stories, Weekly Interviews, things to see and footnotes.
Stories, Weekly Interviews, things to see and footnotes.

February 22, 2019

Stories

Truth Teller 4 minute read

Jaclyn Bethany in Indigo Valley
Jaclyn Bethany and Atli Oskar in Indigo Valley
Jaclyn Bethany
Lily Newmark, Lucy Chappell, Jessamine Bliss-Bell, Greta Bellamacina & Tamsin Egerton in “Five Beauty Queens Walk into A Bar” by Julia Brownwell  Photo by Chloe Pemberton
Lily Newmark, Lucy Chappell, Jessamine Bliss-Bell, Greta Bellamacina & Tamsin Egerton in “Five Beauty Queens Walk into A Bar” by Julia Brownwell  Photo by Chloe Pemberton
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Women are powering on with unity in film and theatre, connecting through universal stretches of overseas collaborations. We spoke with director and actor Jaclyn Bethany ahead of her directorial work for the one-night showing of The Pussy Grabber Plays, which had its London debut at the Playground Theatre on February 20th.

Jaclyn co-directed the all-woman production with C.C Kellogg and Joanne Williams. Produced with collaborators and friends Greta Bellamacina at New River Press and Allegra Marland at Handmade Theatre, the show honours women who have spoken out about their stories of harassment against Donald Trump.

Interview Rosie Anne Footitt

R What do you feel this play does for the women whose stories are shared? 

J It’s giving them a voice. We are sharing their stories with an audience in London, which hasn’t been done before. As a citizen, you can’t overthrow who is in power, but you can shine the light on some of the repercussions of what he [Trump] has caused. The founders of the project made it royalty- free in order for the plays to be seen and heard as much as possible, which is very inspiring.

Why do you think theatre is a powerful medium for reiterating the emotional impact of such personal (and sadly universal, in this case) experiences?

Theatre was the first thing I remember feeling affected by as a kid. I think when it’s done well, it can really affect you. If it’s sad or a happy musical or intense drama. I think seeing theatre sparks something in an audience and gets people talking. What this group of writers [for The Pussy Grabber Plays] did was smart, because it opens up these stories to a wider audience. We all heard about the women [harassed by Trump] on the news and internet, but it’s so interesting to see this dramatised version of these events. 

The theatre is a great way to set up a political stage, really. It always has been. 

These experiences are universal to so many women. I was wondering how you’re hoping to bring a diverse audience into the show.

I think London is a great place to do this, too, because there seems to be an abundance of female-centred pieces. In New York City, it premiered at The Public Theater. It was also a one night only event, but a lot of buzz was created around it. That’s what I’m hoping for in London as well, in order to get this important message heard. 

Was there one truth teller story that stuck out to you the most?

The one that stuck out to me the most was ‘Troublemaker,’ which tells the story of Jill Harth. I found this piece relatable because sometimes it’s hard when you are held accountable by a powerful man with money, to try to explain what’s actually happened. I think that’s something we’ve seen especially with the “Me Too" movement. I thought that piece did a really great job of exploring her story but with a very clear message. It’s by Sharyn Rothstein and the last line of the play is, “I was telling the truth…it turns out when some women tell the truth, it makes a lot of trouble.” 

Do you feel that the play pushes boundaries in a healthy way? What do you think the reception will be in London?

I feel art should carry a message. Even though it’s a sensitive subject matter, there is not anything graphic in the play. I think the writers did a really good job of presenting these pieces that touched on trauma and harassment but didn’t show these experiences explicitly and ultimately, that’s hugely respectful of the women behind this.

This wasn’t your first time collaborating with Greta Bellamacina.

I’ve known Greta forever. We met almost six years ago in NY. She does a lot of different things and it’s amazing. She was in my feature and she’s been in a short I’ve directed. I know she does a lot of readings with her publishing company New River Press, so I thought the play would be another good way to collaborate. We’re hoping to work together on a new film project later this year inspired by Hilma af Klint’s all-woman circle The Five, from the early 1900s. There was this group of five women that met every Friday and would have these séance’s where they create art from the higher spirits. 

Your film The Rehearsal is set in the NY theatre world, also. What is it that intrigues you about the current landscape of theatre?

 I’ve actually been doing film for the past two years, but The Rehearsal takes place during a fictionalised production of Miss Julie. It’s a relevant play right now because it’s about the gender dynamics and power struggle of an upper-class woman and a male servant in her household. I always wanted to do that play, and I started developing a story around it. The Rehearsal focuses on my character Anne’s journey, and how her personal life begins to mix with the world of the play. I think Anne is really affected by the world around her and wants to do the role of Julie justice. This is something actors feel when they go into doing a legendary role. 

You have been on both sides of the camera... 

 I didn’t give up acting to direct. I’ve actually gotten more work as an actor I think because I’ve directed. After I directed my first short, I discovered I really loved directing. I lived in London for a year and a half and did a bunch of different shorts and acted in various projects. 

I think when you’re functioning as an actor and director, editing can be stressful—it’s like reliving a character again and again, while also staring at yourself. I find The Rehearsal weirdly harder to watch because I feel it’s closer to me. In Indigo Valley [Bethany’s feature film], I was playing a much darker character.

What are you working on next?

 I’m writing a play about the young Blanche Dubois [from Streetcar Named Desire] that will be presented as a reading in May in New York, so that’s my sort of next step in that direction. I miss the theatre. That’s why I’m doing all of this again. 

What was it like working in an all-woman production?

Well, it’s not all female—there is one man! I’m working with some of my best friends. I admire all of the girls that signed on to do it as actors. 

 The two other directors are talented ladies who I am lucky enough to call my friends, C.C. Kellogg, who runs a transatlantic company called Invulnerable Nothings, and Joanne Williams, a Canadian producer-director who’s done great indie theatre work in London and Canada. 

 Though all the women behind The Pussy Grabber Plays are different, we united together because we believe in this message and story.