June 13, 2024

Novelist, playwright, director and screenwriter Len Jenkin came to spread knowledge about theatre at the colloquium presented by the theatre department in Chakeres Theater on March 20.

During his time at Wittenberg, Jenkin discussed the importance of theatre and live performance. He discussed a bigger picture of what “theater” entails (weddings, funerals, carnivals, etc). He also explained the charged theatrical moments in people’s lives. He also used a powerful example, the Shalako ceremony of the Zuni tribe in New Mexico. He went on to discuss the importance, power and magic of the human imagination.

He told of an experience he had with a Native American Tribe in the southeast, one in which he attended a ritual and was blown away by the “theatricality” of that experience. He also talked about the benefits of this kind of education. He told parents that this kind of work was used to make them better people, especially when they worried about their kids becoming artists.

Further into the talk, he discussed the difference between writing for theatre, television and film.

Jenkin also mentioned his play “Dark Ride” as a turning point for him, explaining the term “dark ride” as a carnival for a fun house. The aesthetic of the fun house is shown in a lot of his work. He examined his writing process and his new found love of painting. He attested to not having a structure about how he writes and encourages younger artists to be more disciplined than he was.

Jenkin is a man of all trades, dabbling in a variety of works. He wrote several novels: “N Judah,” “New Jerusalem” and “The Secret Life of Billy’s Uncle Myron.” He also has a plethora of plays: “Dark Ride,” “Pilgrims of the Night,” “Careless Love” “and “My Uncle Sam,” to name a few. These shows have been produced all throughout the country. He also wrote a few films named, “Blame it on The Night,” “Welcome to Oblivion” and “American Note.”

He filled the room with laughter as he joked about how he had no idea how he was able to write as many plays as he did.

Jason Podplesky, assistant professor of the theatre department, shared his thoughts on Jenkin’s appearance.

“I thought the colloquium was a big success for our department,” Podplesky said. “I found Len to be extremely honest and genuine with his responses. His way of storytelling is so unique, as are his experiences, and I thought the colloquium presented the students with a great look into his aesthetic and his creative process.”

Sue Apple, who works as an assistant to the theatre department, also shared her experience of Jenkin during the colloquium.

“I thought it was a great experience for our students,” Apple said. “His broad range of talents as playwright, novelist and artist allowed him to address life in art, education and advice to the students in regards to working in a number of different fields.”

Olivia Zink, ’19, explained her experience interacting with Jenkin.

“He was very cool and gave us a lot of insight,” Zink said. “He wasn’t afraid to be real with us about a career in the theatre industry.”

Jenkin has made many contributions to theatre and film and as a result, he has received many awards and honors for playwriting and directing.

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