selfie #10: brandon l. (with questions by jen b.)

Rounding out our #selfie series is the amazing Brandon L. (also one of the creators of podcast Her Fantasy Football) who brought in the firecracker play AMERICAN FOOTBALL. Jen B., like a cub reporter, fired off a few fast ones, and Brandon talked her love of football.

(Stay tuned for the next few weeks, when we’ll start bringing you interviews with our Acting Ensemble for our Fall Shorts Series!).

#selfies are an ongoing interview series where Lather, Rinse, Repeat playwrights interview one another. They have free reign over the questions. The interviewee must then post an actual selfie, for the sake of being meta.

JEN B. So we just heard your new play American Football: A Play.  If I were to write a play about this particular sport I’d need to spend a year, maybe two, researching it before I could even start but it appears that football is in your blood.  Growing up in a football family, how could you not write a play about America’s favorite past time (or is that baseball)?  Anyway, football aside can you speak to the influence your family has had on your writing and your development as an artist?

BRANDON L. My father played football for the University of Colorado in the late 70’s. He has an Orange Bowl ring, and a ton of scars to prove it. He injured both his shoulders and his knee, so the going pro was not an option. And yes, he had three daughters. Our gender never really mattered in my house. Everyone was a woman, and then there was Dad, but we did everything together. We had just as many HotWheels as we had Barbies. I didn’t know there were girl or boy toys until I went to preschool.  And football was our Sunday family time. My mother is still just as crazy about football as my Dad. You’d almost think she played college ball. We’d make a ton of food, watch all of the pre-game programming. We’d go crazy for our team (the Broncos) and then we’d watch the commentary afterwards and debate each play and whether or not the game was won or lost at that moment. Frankly, I’m a very analytical person and pretty decent at games because of this tradition.

My play is about the underbelly of the game intersecting with the insatiable hunger of the American media. American football is entirely an American sport (they play a couple games in London, which is ridiculous, but that’s a different topic) and the American media is a very specific byproduct of our American culture. On one hand we root for the underdog, and on the other we want to be on top. On one hand we claim to be inclusive and on another we make snap judgements based on bias. According to the FBI’s national arrest rates, NFL Players have a lower arrest rate (2.2%) than the general American population (4.2%). The NFL has a lower arrest rate than both baseball and basketball. Basketball has the highest with 5.1% of its players arrested. But over the summer Aaron Hernandez, Tight End for the New England Patriots, was arrested for murdering a man in Bristol, CT and is now being investigated for a double homicide a year prior. After spending a chunk of my time reading about that crime, I started looking into the variety of other big-time NFL arrests and the cover ups by coaches and other mentors. The whole secret society aspect of it all intrigued me. Almost 70% of NFL players are African-American, while only 13% of the coaches are of the same race. The NFL actually instigated the Rooney Rule requiring that each team must interview one minority candidate whenever a head coaching job is up for grabs and still of the 8 head coaching jobs available during the 2012 NFL season, none of the new hires were minorities. Of the 32 teams, 3 have African American coaches and one has a Hispanic coach.  There seemed to be much deeper issues and stories within those percentages. This particular first draft- written in less than 48 hours – was really about my fleshing out this crime and the levels of deceit  throughout the player and coach timeline in college and how that trickled over to the pros. Draft 2 will be about the characters and providing the motivations for those events. I look forward to delving into everything more fully.

Sorry, long answer. But it was the question about the play. I’ll keep the other answers short. Ha!

JEN B. Still on the football train here and the family train, I knew that you were starting a fantasy football podcast and website called Her Fantasy Football, what I did not realize was that you were running it with your two sisters which I think is amazing.  As one of three girls myself can you talk about your relationship with your sisters and what it’s been like taking on such a grand endeavor with them?

BRANDON L. It’s been crazy. To be honest, it’s hard to even put into words. Building a website, creating profiles for the millions of social media sites, providing content and ideas… The list goes on and on. Luckily, my two sisters are amazing women because I could never do any of this without them. It’s been pretty great, but sometimes one or more of us will be tapped out for the week, completely overwhelmed.  Then we just say, “Okay, let’s get off this call and move this conversation to email.” That usually works.

JEN B. I was on the Her Fantasy Football Facebook page earlier and saw that somebody had said they “admired your initiative.”  I would also say that I admire your initiative but I would like to add that I equally admire your drive.   Where does this fire come from, the desire to do and how do you sustain all of the many projects you’re involved in with such grace and humor?

BRANDON L. That’s kind of you. I’m not a fan of working full time at an investment bank, but that is my lot in life. I might as well do a good job. I’ve been an performer and/or playwright my whole existence, so I’m not even sure if that’s a choice. I just do. This lovely collective was born out of the idea that we needed to be a safe place to try out new work before submitting the play. It’s also a free way to provide deadlines for the generating of said work. And the podcast was a fun idea that turned into a side job, but I love it.

For those not familiar with fantasy football, it is basically the greatest role playing game of all time. We’ve met and been interviewed by a variety of fantasy football experts, and they are the same guys who had Dungeon and Dragons parties when we were kids. I went to those parties, so it all makes sense.   You pick real players from real NFL teams to play on your fake team. You “manage” that team throughout the season by creating starting lineups that compete against other managers’ starting lineups and the goal is to have more points than the other person. Each week you face-off against another opponent. Then there is a playoff situation. It’s super intense, and so much fun! Even before this podcast I would create spreadsheets and graphs to better predict certain players’ performances. It’s the dorkiest thing ever.

JEN B. What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do but have never done?

BRANDON L. Travel. I’ve been to France and Mexico, once each. Other than that, I’ve never been in a financial situation where that was an option. If I bumped into money, that would be my first move. Specifically, Egypt. I loved ancient Egyptian culture as a child.

JEN B. You’ve lived in several cities and have been in New York for a good many years now, are there other places that you might find yourself in down the road or is New York the final frontier?

BRANDON L. I have no idea. I lived in Colorado for 9 years, Nebraska for 9 years and Minnesota for 9 years. I’ve been in New York for 4 years, so we’ll see if I get kicked out five years from now. Anything is possible.

JEN B. What do you love most about being a playwright?  How has it changed your life and the way you see yourself?

BRANDON L. I love that when something strikes me in a particular way I want to write about it. Sometimes I don’t even know how I feel about what I’m writing, or who the people are in the story. But as I write, certain aspects come to life and I learn. I’m a better editor than an initial writer. My first draft and my last draft are always very, very different. I have to get everything out before I can make any sense of it. As a performer, I would do the same. I would try everything at rehearsal. I’d be terrible, but I would discover every nook and cranny along the way, and in the end (most of the time) there would be so many extra layers that I never would have found if I had been too inhibited by what was “right.” That’s how I am as a person. I think outloud and I put it all out there. Then I reassess.  It’s a blessing and a curse.

photo (1)

the glamorous football ladies 


selfie #9: jen b. (with questions by tim e.)

The  delectably awesome Jen B. brought in an excellent play, IONA MEANS ISLAND, about flowers and weirdos in love for our perusal. Tim E. chimed in to ask her a few questions.

#selfies are an ongoing interview series where Lather, Rinse, Repeat playwrights interview one another. They have free reign over the questions. The interviewee must then post an actual selfie, for the sake of being meta.

TIM E. Hello Jen Browne! What’s new? Having a good summer?

JEN B. Hello to you too Tim!  I feel like I haven’t seen you in a very long time.   Summer has been pretty good, very busy, so much so that I find myself wondering when summer will actually begin; though summer hasn’t really been summer since finishing school and entering the working world.  Aside from enjoying all of the extremely fruitful Lather, Rinse, Repeat Tuesdays,   I’ve continued work on a new play with Purple Threads Ensemble, smuggled delicious dumplings from Toronto (my boyfriend and I have a major hook up with a noodle factory), pulled off some awesome kids programming at the ol’ day job, visited Woodstock, NY where I ate the best lamb chops of my life and found the greatest jar of classic dill pickles.  (I love pickles, especially when they’re crisp and fresh and essentially a vehicle for transferring vinegar into my body.  I also love vinegar. ) 2013 is also the “The Year of the Wedding” as many of my close friends have decided to get married and turn 30 all in the same year so lots of energy has gone into planning bachelorette parties, bridal showers, and organizing wedding things .  I’ve also squeezed in two baby showers, so while busy, VERY busy, this summer has been overflowing with happiness celebrating lots of life sized milestones.

TIM E. I loved the first draft of your play IONA MEANS ISLAND. What made you center a play around such a simple beautiful gesture as a girl getting a flower from a stranger?    

JEN B. Thank you!  Well, the actual image of the gift of a flower came from an afternoon many years ago when I was people watching and writing little stories and end up with a tiny paragraph about a girl crossing the street, a seed if you will, that grew into the image of a stranger giving another stranger a flower.  I’ve carried the image in my head for a while rolling it around and over time it became a metaphor for love and its ability to surprise us or show up when we least expect it and the full story will hopefully ask, well, what do you do with it, once you’ve got love in your hands, do you nurture it and let it grow or do you put it on a shelf and let it wilt and dry up?  I believe in the presence of choice in matters of love and the need to actively cultivate and care for relationships.

TIM E. And can you tell me a little more about the male characters in IONA, they seem to be romantic  types we’ve seen before, but yet they seem to have something internally fragile about them too.

JEN B. Jason and Mike are both amalgamations of guys that I have met or know and they’re also a little bit of me.   I think that they’re a little bit of an odd couple but I also think that’s why they work.  My hope is for both of them to be vulnerable.  I just came back from a staff retreat in the Catskills where a major thread was vulnerability in the work place and the retreat leader said something that I think will be extremely applicable as I continue with these characters and that is that vulnerability is and I’m actually going to have to paraphrase but, that vulnerability is not a down fall but just hard honesty, it’s being truthful.   Vulnerability is something I struggle with myself both in my writing and in my life so as I continue with this play and these two characters I hope they will be honest and that there might be some conflict in the struggle with the decision to do so.

TIM E. You seem to have a very relaxed, naturalist voice in your writing, your dialogue rings really true to me. Is that something you’ve worked on in classes? Have people mentioned that before?

JEN B. It is something that I have worked at and am still trying to hone.  When I first started writing plays my writing was very flowery and almost narrative, I got a note from a teacher saying it was too much like something you’d read in a novel, so then I went in the complete opposite direction and was writing very short clipped lines and now I think I’m starting to settle somewhere in the middle.   I try to listen to people around me and I do a much better job of listening to the characters in my head.  Usually, I’m just the fly on the wall of my brain, typing everything the characters are saying as quickly as I can on a very tiny, fly sized laptop.   Where I am currently is very much due to my time working with teachers at ESPA and with the LRR gang.

TIM E.   In all honesty, in a group of funny playwrights, you might be the funniest. You’ve been known to walk into a room with all of us and just have everyone in hysterics. Were you always a funny person?

JEN B. I love laughing; nothing is more fun than laughing and nothing is more gratifying than making people laugh.  The laugh I have now, which is very big and witch like is the same laugh I had when I was a baby and coming from a very funny family where I’m maybe only like the 7th or 8th funniest person in the room (and that’s only if half the family doesn’t show up) I used it a lot.   I grew up listening to hysterical happenings from my mother’s childhood and getting the dining room to laugh after a holiday dinner was a sign of major storytelling skills and also proof of one’s own comedic prowess.  I’m actually terrible at telling funny stories they always end somewhat anticlimactically, like— and then we left….silence.  Really I’m not funny at all I’m just smart.  I surround myself with people who are weird like me and who will laugh at all the weird things I do or let fall out of my mouth.   I make lots of jokes that people do not laugh at or I’ll make jokes at work or some other inappropriate time or worse start laughing in the middle of an argument, a lovely defense mechanism passed down the family tree, but even laughing during an argument is fun, terrible but fun.

TIM E. I know you and Lauren Ferebee mentioned to me that you occasionally work on devised performances and improvised dance projects. Can you tell me a little more about that?

JEN B. First, I just want to say that Lauren Ferebee is one of my favorite people in the whole wide world and that is because she says things to me like, hey my apartment is currently a construction site, do you want to get some paint and make a dance video?   She is also full of ideas and lucky for me she shares them with me and then even better invites me to work with her on making them happen.  Lauren and I have known each other for a good long while now; I was Olga to her Masha in her company’s production of Three Sisters.  I honestly don’t know how we got from Olga and Masha to making dance pieces and artsy videos but we did and I’m very glad.  The first dance piece we worked on together was called Maps and featured a lovely man named Ben,  that piece was then adapted into a new piece about Ben being gone, as he was out of town for a scheduled performance.   Over the past year we started gathering footage for a project called Painted Creature which is focused on the idea of women as objects and has been extremely educational both from a technical and artistic point of view.  We also have some exciting plans for future endeavors and collaborations as well.  This type of work also really appeals to my devising background which is something that I love to do, playing makey-uppey is the best.

Jen’s selfie, which reminds her of her grandfather.