Making Art in 2017: Justin Jain on These Terrible Things
Name: Justin Jain
Company: The Berserker Residents / The University of the Arts
Show in 2017 Festival: These Terrible Things
Role: Co-Creator, Performer
Past Festival shows: With Berserkers: The Jersey Devil, 2007; The Giant Squid, 2008; The Annihilation Point, 2009; The Talkback, 2014; It’s So Learning, 2015; I Fucking Dare You, 2016; It’s So Learning, 2016 (part of FringeArts winter season)
FringeArts: Tell us about your show.
Justin Jain: These Terrible Things is our subversive comedic response to contemporary American theater values. We’ve dredged up the work of the (fictional) god-like playwright, Lord Ham Hillerson. His work spans centuries and the variety of work he’s produced emulates those of classic playwrights we revere today—Shakespeare, Beckett, Williams, Mamet . . . to name a few.
The conversations we’re having in the room center around why we produce some works that are consistently problematic—for their misogyny, racism, clunkiness, or for just being over-produced. Why it is so hard for new voices and plays to get attention or funding? Why do we revere the classics as “better”? We are also stoked about this collaboration with UArts because another thread we are chasing are the dangers of educational theater training. The guru and student relationship is one we are excited to explode.
Of course, it would not be a Berserker show without some kind of twist. Let’s just say there’s something much more sinister at play in this piece than meets the eye. That when we look in the shadows we see that all artists deal with the same demons. That sometimes bad ideas need to die. And that what we do as theater artists is all just make-believe.
FringeArts: How have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year?
Justin Jain: Because this is our first time making a show with students as writer/performers alongside us, we are excited and scared of the opportunities this presents. For the past couple shows (The Post Show and It’s So Learning) we’ve also been experimenting heavily with form and audience interaction. We’re thrilled to see how to take this to the next level. We are in constant pursuit of defining our brand of alternative comedy and sharing that with a new generation of artists is one of the best challenges we could have ever imagined.
FringeArts: Tell us about an instance from 2017 when your interaction with art provided some much needed solace or refuge from outside troubles.
Justin Jain: This is an odd question. It assumes I interact with art for “solace or refuge from outside troubles.” Isn’t that what pornography is for?
These Terrible Things
The Berserker Residents / The University of the Arts
$10 / 70 minutes
Sept 14-16, 21-23 @ Caplan Studio Theater at University of the Arts, 211 South Broad Street