26 Jul OOB Final 30 Countdown – Jeffrey James Keyes
It’s the eighteenth day of our Final 30 countdown, and today’s special guest is Jeffrey James Keyes!
Jeffrey James Keyes co-authored the upcoming book Killer Chef with James Patterson for Little, Brown and Company and Hachette Book Group. A recent graduate of Columbia University’s MFA Playwriting Program, his plays have been developed or featured at SoHo Playhouse, the Old Vic/Old Vic New Voices, 59E59, the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Laguna Beach High School, Rogue Machine Theatre, the Prologue Theatre and is a proud alum of the Samuel French OOB Festival. He was recently commissioned by Lexus to story produce the first ten episodes of a travel web series additionally story produced a ten-part travel series for Lexus, associate produced Revealing for the Sundance channel, and two episodes of MTV’s True Life. He additionally contributes travel and lifestyle features for Metrosource Magazine, Passport Magazine, and Q Digital and serves as the Program Assistant to MFA Theatre Program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.
1. When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?
I’ve always been a storyteller. I grew up on the edge of a forest near Lake Michigan and used to take my golden retriever out and walk through the forest and to a massive clearing and lie in the grass with a tattered notebook and my pup panting in the shade nearby and write poetry and short fantasy and adventure stories about living overseas and changing the world. I was the editor of my high school creative writing Zine but didn’t really start writing plays until I moved to New York.
I took a masterclass in playwriting with playwright Charles L. Mee, Jr. while I was studying with the SITI Company up in Saratoga Springs. I wrote a terrible gay version of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and I ended up studying with Chuck a few years later through the LAByrinth Theatre’s Master Class. I was working as a travel journalist around the same time and began interning and assisting some of my favorite writers. I had always been a writer, but during this time I started to buckle down and pursing it professionally.
2. How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
Uniforms used to be called The Biltmore Academy and I wrote it in response to a challenge playwright Chisa Hutchinson gave me when she was a guest playwright at NYMadness. Madness: is a raw and unpredictable show of short plays by an ensemble of playwrights. Each night has a Theme which is decided on by the Producing Playwright. The Theme is given out a week before the event and then the collective works by all the writers in an evening kaleidoscope that cultural moment. Chisa picked the theme “Radical Bias” and I immediately started developing this piece with the theme in mind.
3. What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?
Sincere, Earnest, Grounded, Funny, Subtle.
4. What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
I was obsessed with the Beat writers when I was younger, but as an adult I continually go back to re-reading the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway whenever I’m lost or need inspiration. Writer Glenway Wescott, one of the expatriates from the Lost Generation, is a relative of mine and I go through his books and writings or put on white gloves and go through archival collections of his journals, letters, and personal notes whenever I can. For playwrights, I’m primarily inspired by playwrights like Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, William Inge, and Tennessee Williams. I draw a lot of my inspiration from visual art: collecting and referencing things I find visually stimulating or subtle details that can evoke emotion or hold a mirror up to reality. I work as a travel journalist and am frequently able to visit museums in foreign cities and experience artwork in person.
5. What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?
I discreetly collect Hummel figurines.
6. What are some of your favorite plays?
I’m a contemporary classic junkie. I love A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, The Crucible, Picnic, A View From the Bridge, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Our Town.
7. Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?
Killer Chef, the book I co-authored with James Patterson for Little, Brown and Company and Hachette Book Group will come out on November 1 and is currently available for pre-sale at Barnes and Noble (www.barnesandnoble.com/w/killer-chef-james-patterson) and Amazon (www.amazon.com/Killer-Chef-BookShots-James-Patterson/). I’ve been developing a short screenplay inspired by the play that’s currently being submitted to festivals. Stay tuned for my upcoming web series, 5 to 9, all coming out soon.
His play Uniforms will be performed on August 9th at 6:30pm. It’s set when Susan is called into to her son’s school for an infraction of the rules, and a heated discussion of education, ethics, and modern day parenting ensues.