Welcome to the Jig Saw blog. Over the next 10 weeks, I’ll be chronicling the production of this show by the great and underappreciated writer, Dawn Powell.
Why Jig Saw? (Which, by the way, Powell referred to in her diaries as “Jig Saw,” “Jig-saw,” and “Jigsaw”; I use the two words because that’s how the play appears in its one published version, as part of the collection Four Plays by Dawn Powell.)
Several years ago, I taught a literature survey class at Washtenaw Community College, where I currently continue to teach English. I decided to include Powell’s The Locusts Have No King as an example of a mid-century novel written by a woman; it replaced Death Comes for the Archbishop, which my students universally did not, to put it kindly, get.
I was amazed at the response to Powell. My roster was diverse on multiple levels, including age, socio-economic, and ethnicity, and of the five novels I chose, it was the clear favorite. Students were intrigued by it; one student thought it would make a great movie, updated from the publishing world of post-War NYC to present-day Hollywood.
Fast forward to 2011. My divorce prompted, as divorces do, some re-evaluation. A friend pointed out my artistic frustration, and through my teenage son’s involvement in theater, I realized I’d left behind my first love in order to make a living (as a digital creative). I started to look for ways to get re-involved in theater, including a show to direct and a venue that would give me a shot.
While I love Shakespeare, I didn’t it want to tackle it the first time out. I wanted to find a play with great roles, particularly for women, that was set in an interesting period, that was funny and well-written, and that hadn’t been done a million times. My eyes focused on that volume of Powell’s plays that had been sitting on my shelf, unread.
I liked the first one, Big Night, which had opened and closed after four days of savage reviews. I loved the second one. Jig Saw did better for Powell, running almost two months and snagging Spring Byington for the lead, as well as the wonderful but almost completely forgotten Ernest Truex and Cora Witherspoon as the main supports. If my students could connect to Locusts, surely the audience was not just ready but crying out for Jig Saw—even if they didn’t know it. And any time that I can introduce Dawn Powell to lovers of great literature is a good time in my book.
I submitted the play proposal to PTD and was thrilled when it was chosen. Now, all roles except Nathan have been cast with a wonderful group of actors, who you’ll meet over the next few weeks. And I have utter confidence that we’ll find the right Nate. Powell describes him as “a casual young man,” and then “a pleasantly casual young man.” A notice is out, but pleasantly casual young men, feel free to get in touch.
Next up: Inspirations and early ideas for the look of the show.