Another one dead. Another hashtag. Another funeral. The cycle repeats. A Black man and a Black woman sit together for what seems like just another wake. Both tired from the endless loop, their small talk quickly leads to a blowout as both parties must reconcile what it truly means for them to move on. Posing the question; how does one grieve in a time like this?
JAY MAZYCK (he/they) is a Black queer creative from Brooklyn, NY. They starred in the Off-
Broadway production of Chisa Hutchinson’s Surely Goodness and Mercy (Keen Company) as well as Michelle Tyrene Johnson’s radio play Buried Roots. A reading of their first full length play, MAD, was included in the 2019 season of Corkscrew Theater Festival and they were one of the seven playwrights award commission in the 11th season of the Obie Award-winning Fire This Time Festival. Their short play, If Men Were Flowers premiered on the streaming platform All-Star in 2020. Their short play Dude premiered at the 2020 Frigid Queerly Festival and The Reparations Show produced by Kevin R. free. Mazyck is an alum of the prestigious Royal Court Theaters Writers Group in London and is currently a BTU Rise Fellow in partnership with Black Theatre United and Williamstown Theater Festival as well as a 2021-2022 SoulCenter Fellow.
A BIT ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
1. When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?
My grandmother is a reverend and my mother is hot-tempered so language has always been a weapon in my household. So I always wrote because I felt like it was the most powerful thing I could do. The first play I ever wrote was in high school. I wrote it as a way to come out to my classmates because I was too scared to say it plain. I wrote what I didn’t have the courage to say but I also think spilled more tea than intended. The more I wrote, the more complex the narrative became, the more complex my understanding of my own queerness became. But when it was performed a clarity came into view. It felt coherent, it felt linear. It felt good. That’s when I realized I wanted to write as a way to make lemonade out of chaos, confusion and fear.
2. How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
When George Floyd’s murder sparked massive uproar and everybody was taking to the streets, I felt uncomfortably numb. I was of course angry at first but then I was sad and then I was scared and then I was annoyed at some people. A lot of people’s activism seemed performative because I knew personally that the people who would share those info graphs or go to those marches never once practiced care for a Black person unless it benefited them. And then I thought about the families. When do they get a moment of silence? They’ve lost something very personal, very real, and there’s something jarring to me when we steal that or capitalize off of that. When we say, George Floyd is the face of a movement, or that he died for change. The truth is he didn’t die for us. He wasn’t a martyr, He was murdered. He was a personhood was wrapped up and tucked in a closet somewhere, and instead his physical body became a catalyst for a political movement. I felt sad that there’s a possibility that Floyd’s family may never get the chance to go through all of the stages of grief because of Floyd’s death being tied to a struggle that is ever-going.
With this play, I wanted to offer an example of stillness. I wanted to allow room for grief, and sitting in that grief, instead of marching it to someone’s front door. Just to be clear, I am very much an activist. I believe we must always push for justice and change but our humanity has to come first. Black people deserve a moment of rest, care, kindness, stillness. We deserve to grieve in-doors as well, for one person at a time.
3. What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?
Healing, Language, Music, Black, Queer
4. What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
I like to approach everything I write through the lens of transformative justice–meaning the work starts within. Toni Morrison is a huge influence of mine, as well as debbie tucker green. I love reading so I owe my language to every book I read. I was raised in a religious household so the biblical will always have a hold me. And weirdly, R&B music and it’s sensuality and sentimentality always creeps its way into my work.
5. What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?
I was a dancer for a large part of my life. I’m trained in classical ballet as well as the Martha Graham Technique. I went to LaGuardia High School originally for dance before I switched to acting.
6. What are some of your favorite plays?
BORN BAD BY DEBBIE TUCKER GREEN IS MY FAVORITE PLAY OF ALL TIME. Betrayal by Harold Pinter is in the top 3, as well as For Colored Girls by the GOAT Ntozake Shange (I have two marked up copies)
7. Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?
I’m working on a project called this is how you destroy a body. It’s about a grad student who decides to become a sex worker for their thesis. What starts out as research turns into a full blown obsession as they become overly invested in their clients lives and is unable to discern the difference between the work place and their personal life. It doesn’t end well.