9780865479906

God's Ear A Play

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780865479906

  • ISBN10:

    0865479909

  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2008-04-01
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Summary

God's Earmarks the debut of Jenny Schwartz, "an indelibly clever playwright, possessed of linguistic playfulness and a lively sense of rhythm" (Alexis Soloski,The Village Voice). Through the skillfully disarming use of cliched language and homilies, the play explores with subtle grace and depth the way the death of a child tears one family apart, while showcasing the talents of a promising young playwright who "in [a] very modern way [is] making a rather old-fashioned case for the power of the written word" (Jason Zinoman,The New York Times).Fresh from its critically acclaimed off-off-Broadway run this past spring,God's Earmoves off-Broadway to the Vineyard Theatre in April 2008. Jenny Schwartz's playGod's Earwas produced off-off Broadway in May 2007 and moved off-Broadway in April 2008. Two of Jenny's plays,IntervalsandCause for Alarm, were part of the New York Fringe Festival, in 1998 and 2002, respectively. She is the recipient of a grant from the Lincoln Center Lecomte du Nuoy Foundation and is the 2007-2008 recipient of the Dorothy Stresling Foundation Fellowship at Soho Rep. Jenny completed two years of fellowship in the Playwriting Program at the Julliard School and holds an MFA in theater directing from Columbia University. God's Earmarks the debut of Jenny Schwartz, "an indelibly clever playwright, possessed of linguistic playfulness and a lively sense of rhythm" (Alexis Soloski,The Village Voice). Through the skillfully disarming use of cliched language and homilies, the play explores with subtle grace and depth the way the death of a child tears one family apart, while showcasing the talents of a promising young playwright who "in [a] very modern way [is] making a rather old-fashioned case for the power of the written word" (Jason Zinoman,The New York Times). Fresh from its critically acclaimed off-off-Broadway run this past spring,God's Earmoves off-Broadway to the Vineyard Theatre in April 2008. "This ode to love, loss, and the routines of life has the economy and dry wit of a Sondheim love song . . . Schwartz is a real talent and she is trying something ambitious . . . In [her] very modern way, [she is] making a rather old-fashioned case for the power of the written word."--Jason Zinoman,The New York Times "Words gush forth in torrents, spewing up like geysers on a ghostly plain, in God's Ear, an arrestingly odd new play by Jenny Schwartz that will surely fascinate many . . . The superbly realized production ofGod's Earthat opened Thursday night at the Vineyard Theater is the same one that was presented to much acclaim last year by the adventurous Off Off Broadway theater company New Georges . . .God's Earis composed of virtuosic monologues and dialogues that reveal Ms. Schwartz's gift for constructing quirky lyrical riffs that stop making sense and then start up again from one line to the next . . . The cleverness of the writing is undeniable, and certainly diverting."--Charles Isherwood,The New York Times "A provocative, adventuresome, beautifully written play."--Edward Albee "This ode to love, loss, and the routines of life has the economy and dry wit of a Sondheim love song . . . Schwartz is a real talent and she is trying something ambitious . . . In [her] very modern way, [she is] making a rather old-fashioned case for the power of the written word."--Jason Zinoman,The New York Times "[Schwartz] masterfully use[s] language without ever trusting it to tell the tru

Author Biography

Jenny Schwartz's play God’s Ear was produced off-off Broadway in May 2007 and moved off-Broadway in April 2008. Two of Jenny's plays, Intervals and Cause for Alarm, were part of the New York Fringe Festival, in 1998 and 2002, respectively. She is the recipient of a grant from the Lincoln Center Lecomte du Nuoy Foundation and is the 2007-2008 recipient of the Dorothy Stresling Foundation Fellowship at Soho Rep. Jenny completed two years of fellowship in the Playwriting Program at the Julliard School and holds an MFA in theater directing from Columbia University.  

Table of Contents

God's Ear
The Shadow of a Future Self
by Nina Steiger
 
 
Jenny Schwartz uses language like a composer might, embellishing a simple melody with harmonics. Harmonic pitches, made up of partial or component frequencies, are what give different instruments their distinct timbres and give us the ability to determine that two instruments playing in unison are in fact distinct from each other. The range of sounds an instrument is capable of is amplified and what we can hear is extended by these "partials." As a composer might use these tones to complexify a melody, likewise, Jenny's characters, scenes, and moments--fragments and partials themselves--are able to convey an expansive and nuanced emotional landscape using deceptively simple elements.
When I first talked to Jenny about her process, she indicated that it could be a time-consuming one, working toward "getting it right." But it wasn't until we worked together on a script-in-progress for Soho Theatre that I truly appreciated the precision with which she forges the kind of moments that distinguish her work. She massages the rhythms and beats of each scene with an alertness to the intentions underneath each line. She has astonishing instincts for capturing the hidden languages we speak when we talk casually to the people we treasure most and intimately with those we don't know at all.
Jenny's scenes are characterized by people in apparent isolation. They seem to find it easy to talk, but hard to say what they mean; simple to express something, but never in their own words. This creates a particular and often peculiar rhythm and vernacular. Her characters seem to invite us into the recesses of their marriages, their memories, and their dramas with the most familiar of phrases. Yet these phrases are applied in new ways, overturned and contraverted to let us know that there is more to what's said than what we hear. "I have deficiencies," Mel tells Ted. Repetitions are woven into the dialogue. At the heart of this is the accrued meaning a phrase or confrontation gains in repeated approaches, each time affording the characters a higher sense of emotional acuity and the audience a deeper sense of identification.
Like an antenna capturing multiple frequencies, Jenny pinpoints lives comprised of fragments--echoes of memory and dreams, conversations we're too busy to finish, snippets we hear from other peoples' cell-phone calls, moments we observe in waiting rooms, lounges, and lobbies. The comparison to harmonics lies in Jenny's masterful use of partial thoughts and moments that combine to give her work its distinct flavor. Her writing captures something of the pain and humor within a particular dissociation so many of us feel today.
These characters have borrowed words from the surrounding atmosphere and have anguish they cannot express. One of the most stirring moments must surely be a long speech of Mel's which becomes an aria of clichés. It begins as a call to arms, a manifesto of newly made meanings and, by extension, possibilities. This speech ends with a reiteration of the marriage vows that are straining in the wake of a loss. We end with a maudlin couplet: "And the fat lady will sing. / With bells on."
The play presents a mosaic; each of its tiles offer grace notes of misunderstanding, odd applications of everyday idioms, overturned clichés, and phantom lines from one character in the mouth of another. What emerges from the fragments is a compelling portrait of grief and recalibration. It's a perfect snapshot of a family in transition and it articulates aspects of the human heart and the modern condition. "We am. / I. / Were. / We was."
 
Nina Steiger is the director of the Writers' Centre at Soho Theatre, London.
Copyright © 2008 by Jenny Schwartz

Excerpts

God's Ear
The Shadow of a Future Self
by Nina Steiger
 
 
Jenny Schwartz uses language like a composer might, embellishing a simple melody with harmonics. Harmonic pitches, made up of partial or component frequencies, are what give different instruments their distinct timbres and give us the ability to determine that two instruments playing in unison are in fact distinct from each other. The range of sounds an instrument is capable of is amplified and what we can hear is extended by these "partials." As a composer might use these tones to complexify a melody, likewise, Jenny's characters, scenes, and moments--fragments and partials themselves--are able to convey an expansive and nuanced emotional landscape using deceptively simple elements.
When I first talked to Jenny about her process, she indicated that it could be a time-consuming one, working toward "getting it right." But it wasn't until we worked together on a script-in-progress for Soho Theatre that I truly appreciated the precision with which she forges the kind of moments that distinguish her work. She massages the rhythms and beats of each scene with an alertness to the intentions underneath each line. She has astonishing instincts for capturing the hidden languages we speak when we talk casually to the people we treasure most and intimately with those we don't know at all.
Jenny's scenes are characterized by people in apparent isolation. They seem to find it easy to talk, but hard to say what they mean; simple to express something, but never in their own words. This creates a particular and often peculiar rhythm and vernacular. Her characters seem to invite us into the recesses of their marriages, their memories, and their dramas with the most familiar of phrases. Yet these phrases are applied in new ways, overturned and contraverted to let us know that there is more to what's said than what we hear. "I have deficiencies," Mel tells Ted. Repetitions are woven into the dialogue. At the heart of this is the accrued meaning a phrase or confrontation gains in repeated approaches, each time affording the characters a higher sense of emotional acuity and the audience a deeper sense of identification.
Like an antenna capturing multiple frequencies, Jenny pinpoints lives comprised of fragments--echoes of memory and dreams, conversations we're too busy to finish, snippets we hear from other peoples' cell-phone calls, moments we observe in waiting rooms, lounges, and lobbies. The comparison to harmonics lies in Jenny's masterful use of partial thoughts and moments that combine to give her work its distinct flavor. Her writing captures something of the pain and humor within a particular dissociation so many of us feel today.
These characters have borrowed words from the surrounding atmosphere and have anguish they cannot express. One of the most stirring moments must surely be a long speech of Mel's which becomes an aria of clichés. It begins as a call to arms, a manifesto of newly made meanings and, by extension, possibilities. This speech ends with a reiteration of the marriage vows that are straining in the wake of a loss. We end with a maudlin couplet: "And the fat lady will sing. / With bells on."
The play presents a mosaic; each of its tiles offer grace notes of misunderstanding, odd applications of everyday idioms, overturned clichés, and phantom lines from one character in the mouth of another. What emerges from the fragments is a compelling portrait of grief and recalibration. It's a perfect snapshot of a family in transition and it articulates aspects of the human heart and the modern condition. "We am. / I. / Were. / We was."
 
Nina Steiger is the director of the Writers' Centreat Soho Theatre, London.
Copyright © 2008 by Jenny Schwartz

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