Current Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Megan Ann Jacobs

Editor’s note: This post was written by our guest blogger, playwright Steven G. Martin

In this post, we profile Indianapolis-based playwright Megan Ann Jacobs!

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Our playwriting hero, Megan Ann Jacobs!

According to her website, Megan is “a quirky, nerdy, optimistic story-teller, always on the hunt for a new creative outlet.” She works is the property manager of the upcoming project in Indianapolis, which she calls “a truly legendary undertaking taking place in the former Coke-a-Cola bottling factory.”

We’ll be looking at one of Megan’s plays, “aMUSEd,” which was produced at the Indy Fringe Festival.

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A pretty cool poster.

Scene: A quaint New York City apartment

Time: Present

An older woman named Anita is asleep at her typewriter. Sebastian, a man in his 20s, wakes her. She is upset at her lack of progress in writing a book, while he is more upset that she is in poor health. They both know she will die soon, and the book will go unfinished. Anita encourages Sebastian to move on.

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Nate Press and Madeline Bunke in aMUSEd.

ANITA

You are now and will forever be my muse. But I can’t always be your instrument. I need you to promise me you will not let our story die. It’s the best one yet.

SEBASTIAN

Exactly, it’s the best one. I thought it for you, not someone else.

ANITA

Then keep thinking it for me. And when you are done, look for me on the pages. I promise you I will be there. Please, find this girl and finish our tale. Promise me.

SEBASTIAN

(It takes great strength, but he concedes.) I promise.

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Thomas Sebald and Anastasia Wild in aMUSEd.

And just like that, Megan catapults the audience into a world where Greek mythology is very much alive and literal, and modern-day authors reap the benefit.

A young lawyer named Nikki rents Anita’s former apartment, which several people believe to be haunted. She meets Sebastian, who insists she leave – guess who’s been doing the haunting to scare away the previous tenants? Nikki calls the police, but no good comes of it. Sebastian tells Nikki that he is a muse. He plans to get her to leave the apartment, just like he forced out the others who came after Anita.

Nikki’s problems don’t stop with Sebastian, either. She recently called off her wedding with Ryan and has moved out of the apartment they had lived in. The relationship is on hold, although Ryan supports Nikki … but then Sebastian interferes. Through a series of text messages and phone calls, Tyler – the apartment building’s landlord – is caught by Ryan in Nikki’s apartment while Nikki herself is in a bathrobe.

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Madeline Bunke.

RYAN

Who was that?

NIKKI

My landlord.

RYAN

Why was he here?

NIKKI

I honestly don’t know how it happened.

RYAN

Why was he holding you…in your robe?

NIKKI

He was crying, and he just sort of grabbed me. The robe was just an unfortunate circumstance.

RYAN

You made your landlord cry?

NIKKI

No, no! I was helping him get over his ex.

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Josh Scheibe and Madeline Bunke.

RYAN

Helping him how?

SEBASTIAN

Yes, helping him how?

NIKKI

I know it looks bad, but come on. You can’t really think-

RYAN

Well…

Ryan is almost assuaged, and he and Nikki begin to make out, which insults Sebastian. Sebastian threatens to hurt Ryan, which causes Nikki to call out Sebastian’s name and … well, more complications ensue. Ryan leaves Nikki in her apartment, not quite as supportive.

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Jane Preston & Thomas Sebald

Nikki breaks down and accuses Sebastian of making life even more difficult after the recent death of her twin sister.

NIKKI

Some people believe twins have a special bond, and, at least for us, that was true. Year after year my sister and I would make these crazy plans to move out together, go to college, and find our respective prince charmings. We understood each other in a way that didn’t require words. She knew all my secrets and I knew all her dreams. Then we grew up. Ryan proposed to me. I was going to be moving out right after the wedding. Susan was my maid of honor. But two days before the wedding, I was getting ready for bed when she called out to me: “Nikki.” It was the one word she could say perfectly. “Nikki,” she called. I got out of bed and walked over to her. She pushed herself up and kissed my forehead. It must have taken everything she had to do that. I told her I loved her too. Then I went to sleep…just like that…It was as if she knew this was goodbye. When I woke up she was gone.

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Thomas Sebald.

SEBASTIAN

Nikki, I’m sorry. It’s never easy-

NIKKI

And do you know what the worst part was? I slept through the night. I didn’t wake up in a hot sweat. I didn’t have a nightmare. There was no cold chill. I kept sleeping. It wasn’t until I went to wake her the next morning that I knew. I was so close. Maybe if I would have woken up, I could have done something.

But Sebastian understands loss, too, after being a muse for dozens of artists throughout the world.

SEBASTIAN

Losing someone is awful enough, trust me, you don’t want a pestilent timer ticking in your ear,

reminding you of what little time you have left with the ones you love.

NIKKI

Nobody knows how much time you have left.

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Thomas Sebald.

SEBASTIAN

I do! Do you want to know the real reason the muses left this world? It was because they could not stand the pain of losing companion after companion. For years and years they harbored this pain, but eventually they could not bear it anymore. I was the only one stupid enough to take one of their roles. They warned me not to go, but I didn’t listen. I wanted to share my stories. So, I came up with a plan. I begged the gods for a tool, something that would spare me the pain of the other muses. Chronos was the only one to step forward, and he presented me with this watch. It would attach to the life of my instrument, and it would tell me how long they had. I would stay with my companion until my watch told me that they had ten years left. Then I would leave. No exceptions. But it still hurt. It put a timer on everything and everyone. But at least I didn’t have to watch anyone die.

 

Nikki and Sebastian fight about who has had it worse, but Anita’s ghost appears during the aftermath. She points out to Sebastian that Nikki has the drive and intelligence to be a writer. Sebastian agrees that he probably is meant to be Nikki’s muse, and he attempts a reconciliation by threatening to tell her how long she has left to live.

Nikki writes a draft to the ending of the book, which she finds therapeutic as it allows her to let go of the past. She questions whether Sebastian’s watch robs him of the future and the time he spends with the artists he inspires. 

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Melissa Wild and Allen Pujankauski.

SEBASTIAN

I need it though. Otherwise, I won’t know when to leave.

NIKKI

Exactly, you won’t know.

SEBASTIAN

But I have a rule-

NIKKI

Since when do you care about rules? And don’t forget, you made an exception.

SEBASTIAN

And I paid the price!

NIKKI

But you have some great memories from those years, don’t you?

SEBASTIAN

Of course.

NIKKI

Would you trade those for anything?

SEBASTIAN

Not a thing.

NIKKI

Then what are you waiting for, Sebastian? Break the watch and embrace the fact, that for once, you won’t define the life of those you love in minutes and hours. You can start defining them in memories. And we can start right now, together.

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Anastasia Wild, Allen Pujanauski and Thomas Sebald

SEBASTIAN

Together?

NIKKI

If you do it, I will help you. We can finish this book together. Our first memory in the now. Come on, Sebastian, break the watch.

Sebastian stares at his watch. He slowly takes it off his wrist. With one last encouraging look from Nikki he grabs the frying pan and smashes the watch. He stands almost shell-shocked.

NIKKI

Well, how do you feel?

SEBASTIAN

I’m still here…so Chronos cannot be too livid with me. I feel…good…great, possibly even-

NIKKI

Grand?

SEBASTIAN

Let’s not get sappy.

There’s no time to get sappy. Sebastian dislikes the draft because Nikki has killed Mr. Sparkles, the family pet, thinking “it was a good symbol for change.” Although they disagree on that point, they realize how the draft of the novel will end, and both are happy.

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Lori Morse and Josh Scheibe

There are further complications as Sebastian tries to fix the rift between Nikki and Ryan. But through some well-placed phone calls – including 9-1-1 – all the love stories end well, including the one between Tyler and Officer Kasey.

RYAN

Does this mean we can finally set a new date for our wedding?

NIKKI

How about today?

RYAN

What?

NIKKI

Yeah! We can go to the court house right now! We already have everything we need, what are we waiting for?

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Olivia Gonzales and Nate Press.

RYAN

Are you serious?

NIKKI

Definitely.

 

RYAN

I’ll have to check my calendar, but I think I can squeeze that in.

SEBASTIAN

A wedding! Tonight!? But that gives me almost no time to think up a toast!

Sebastian runs to the desk and starts writing desperately on a piece of paper.

RYAN

Does that mean you are going to move in with me?

NIKKI

I’ll move in tonight!

SEBASTIAN

And we’re moving?!

Sebastian runs into the room and grabs a suitcase and starts packing his books.

RYAN

We are finally moving forward again. Are you sure you are okay? I don’t want to rush you. Your sister-

NIKKI

Couldn’t be more proud. You were right, Ryan. Moving on doesn’t mean moving away from her. She moves with me.

Which nicely sums up “aMUSEd” and its main theme: Things change. Nothing is forever, but nothing is entirely lost.

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Thomas Sebald, Allen Pujanauski and Melissa Wild.

1) How did you start playwriting?

Writing and theatre have always been two cornerstones in my life. However, it wasn’t until college that I moved to combine the two and create a play. I didn’t go out to write a play, rather, an idea struck me as I looked a picture…the story that came to mind was begging to be told on the stage. I don’t think I had much choice in the mater.

2) What are your influences?

This is quite the question, as I believe influence is found everywhere. It’s in the people I know. I’m consistently inspired by moments, memories, loves, work, struggle, fear- everything can be an influencer if you are prepared to listen. I do make a conscious effort to surround myself with art of many types, as this has helped me expand my horizons and perspective.

3) What is your most memorable production and why?

In one of the last performances of the world premiere of “aMUSEd,” after the first act, there was a power outage. Two of the actors were bound for Chicago after the final weekend, so rescheduling was not an option. So for the second half, they performed in candlelight in the intimate venue. Lucky for me, there happens to be a huge storm in the show at that point. (What are the odds!) The landlord even comes up to check on the outlets, so, the actors ad-libbed a bit as needed and the show continued! Truly was the most interesting combination of incredibly horrid luck and divine intervention.

4) What is your least memorable production and why?

Perhaps, it’s simply because I’ve only had a handful of productions of my work, but they are all memorable to me in some shape and form. It does get a bit monotonous after you’ve seen it 6+ times in a matter of two weeks, but I think one of the beauties of live theatre is that every show is nuanced with differences.  As an actor, director, and playwright, this is one of the most incredible things to witness.

5) What are your writing habits like?

I try to write at least a little bit a week, even if that means editing pieces. The more theatre I see, the more inspired I am to write. I’m hesitant to call any of the ways I write ‘habits,’ because I feel consistency is something I lack. Some days I stare at the screen for hours and fail to produce a page, other days I knock out a first draft in one sitting, and there is, of course, the times my laptop never even opens despite my good intentions, because I can’t get my eyes off of my current Netflix guilty pleasure. I have found that I work better when I have a deadline, so classes, readings, and submission opportunities act as a huge motivator for me.

6) What advice do you have for new playwrights?

Get your butt in the chair. The chair is at it’s most intimidating when you are first starting your piece. It stares at you, mocking you. The only way to silence it is to take it’s *insert accurate adjective for our own chair here* form and sit upon it. Even writing poorly for an hour is better than not writing at all. I think we are so conditioned to be afraid of failure and we worry that we will ruin the peaceful whiteness of the blank page with our words. Ultimately, any words, even ones that you lament about later and revise, make that paper more interesting than it was before. There are no perfect plays. There are no perfect playwrights. In fact, the only thing successful playwrights have in common is the mountain of ‘failure’ that now is the foundation of the mountain where they sit.

7) Who are some other writers you feel should get more attention?

I’ve recently had the pleasure of coordinating a table reading for Marcia Eppich-Harris. While she is still developing her first piece for the stage, that’s a name you will want to look out for, as she has talent.

8) What are the common themes in your work?

I am consistently drawn to the dramatic-comedy, where I can explore a heavy-theme (such as loss in “aMUSEd”), while still bringing the audience laugher. Other than that though, I’d say mental struggles such as anxiety, trauma, and depression always seem to find a way into my writing. Human behavior is complicated and each person is motivated by a brain full of individual experiences and complex chemical reactions and not enough people are willing to tackle those intimate issues and vulnerabilities.

9) What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out?

That once a play has a production, the options for submitting it into competitions is all but eliminated. That was one thing I regretted about the immediate success of “aMUSEd” and its ability to see the stage. I am still honored and would not take those productions back for anything, but I do wish that I would have submitted to contests before accepting production contracts. Now it is stuck in the limbo of being too accredited for contest entries and not accredited enough to get through to gain agents/publication/or most opportunities at a regional theatre.

10) Can you please tell us about Indy Fringe?

Indy Fringe is a 15-year-old organization that focuses on providing opportunities for artists of all kinds to perform or see their work performed. It has several festivals throughout the year, the most popular being the Indy Fringe Festival, which is a reasonable pay-to-play uncensored opportunity to get your work performed. It’s a fun-filled 10-day festival that draws attention from across the country. During the rest of the year, Indy Fringe provides a location at a reasonable price to work on your pieces and host performances. It also makes it its mission to bring in traveling acts to further raise the artistic credibility of Indianapolis.

11) What’s a question you’d like to be asked? Go ahead and answer that question. 

How could you get in touch with me? You can find out more about me and my shows at www.meganjacobstheatre.com. There is even a place where you can contact me directly!

Link Dump

aMUSEd

Wisconsin audition notice

Milwaukee production

Milwaukee review

Review of another Milwaukee production

Another Milwaukee review

Indy production

Indy

DivaFest in Indy

Review of the play

Dinner show near Sheboygan

A really interesting review

Coping with Autumn

Staged reading

Staged reading 2

 

The Playwright

Her IMDB page

Her personal/professional website

Her demo reel

Her New Play Exchange profile

Thanks again to Steven G. Martin for this guest post.