Jennifer Lieberman’s one-woman show Year of the Slut premieres in LA January 11 and 12th, before moving onto New York in February. A Canadian writer/performer, Lieberman has starred in several original theater pieces in Toronto, New York, and Los Angeles, and has penned a number of screenplays, stage plays, and a book of erotic poetry. Lieberman shares her creative process and how her acting and writing work together, as well as some advice, with the Write On! community.
What inspired you to become a writer?
When I was eight years old I would lie down in my mothers closet, the darkest room in the house, and imagine myself into the storyline of TV shows I watched. I guess I was writing spec scripts in my head, by ten years old I was actually putting pen to paper. I guess that’s where my theatrical writing began. When I was 12, my uncle passed away; it was devastating, that’s when the poetry and short stories began. That was also when I starting writing new content with my original ideas and broke away from writing myself guest star roles for shows that already existed.
In what ways does being an actor help your writing and vice versa?
Being an actor definitely helps find the different voices, truths, and points of view of each character on their own, not just as devices to drive the story. Being a writer helps with the acting because I approach a script with a certain amount of respect for the writer and the story they are telling as opposed to how I as the actor want to play the role … as an actor, it is my job to serve the writing not vice versa.
What led you to create Year of the Slut? Why that title?
I was invited to go horseback riding with a friend I met at a workshop; her husband owns an agency. New to LA, I asked for some advice… She was familiar with my writing and suggested I write myself a one-woman show to use as a vehicle to find an agent. I told her a few ideas I had for shows and then mentioned there was a “Chick Lit” book I wanted to write in 20 years (when I had the time), called Year of the Slut, about a young girl coming into her own sexually and embarking on all these outrageous adventures… She said it would be perfect, so I ran with it.
The title. I was 22, working in a restaurant in Tribecca, and the lunch shift was usually slow, so I would hang out in the kitchen, chatting with the soux chef. He’d flirt with me, as I would complain about my boyfriend and how the spark wasn’t exactly there … I was still completely naive about sex and relationships, I was totally a late bloomer. He said: “Just wait till you hit 25, it’s the year of the slut,” and explained that it’s the year girls realize that 30 is around the corner and their youth and looks are fleeting, so they tend to loosen up about getting busy.
What was your process for writing it? Getting it produced?
This process was very different than anything I’d ever written. First, it is the only piece that I was calculated about, all my other writing in a sense has written me, as opposed to me writing it. In the past I would always wait, sit on an idea, let it simmer until it was screaming to get out, and it would in a way write itself. This is the first time I ever “forced” an idea out. Second, I wanted to incorporate my poetry into it, so I choose seven poems that followed an emotional arc and wrote the story around them. Third, considering I was specifically writing it as a showcase for my acting, I crafted my characters according to showing my acting range physically, vocally, and emotionally. I had a basic plot structure, but most of the stuff that is in the play now came out of playing with the dialogue as in character, so the writing process was also an acting/character workshop. The script would change every rehearsal to drive the story further.
As for producing it, it’s literally a one-woman show. I have produced it myself. I found a couple of sponsors to donate props and my best friend gave me some money towards it, but most of the budget came out of my own pocket. When I lived in New York, I ran a small theater company in the East Village and produced 3 original plays, so once I had enough money to move forward I knew what to do.
What was your favorite part of the process? The greatest challenge?
My favorite part hands down is how much I have impressed myself. I realized that I am happiest as an artist when I am in process. With this piece I continually surprise myself with what is coming out of me … both as a writer and a performer. It feels really good.
The greatest challenge is doing it all on my own … not just the performance but all the production stuff. I am wearing way too many hats, other than a director and choreographer, I am doing it all. I don’t have the budget to hire a team (producer, stage manager, publicist etc.) but I can’t let that stop me so I just keep on trucking.
In what ways are the styles of writing you do different? Are there any similarities? … And where did a book on erotic poetry fall into the mix?
I guess I write quite a range from comedy to psychodrama. The difference is the comedy stuff is an attempt to be more commercial and sell something and the psychodrama is more for me, like stuff I would want to read/see. The plot points of a script are very carefully mapped out before I ever sit down to write. With the poetry it comes to me in a moment of inspiration, I write it down and it’s done, I never go back and change it.
The erotic poetry, that was my Year of the Slut, the year my writing had a sexual awakening these poems just started gushing out of me. I don’t think about it too much, I just write.
Advice for creative people?
Just do it. Don’t worry about the funding, start small, scrape together what you can, and just begin. Once you commit wholeheartedly to a creative endeavor, it’s pretty amazing how the universe helps you out. Most importantly sometimes things have to go wrong before they can go right … so embrace the mistakes and challenges as a necessary device to propel you to where you are supposed to be.
Advice for writers?
Keep writing. Do whatever you need to do to stay inspired. I also find my imagination is more active when I am physically active, so I hike and do yoga all the time.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
Great pieces are not written, they are re-written. It is all a process. Be open to feedback and trying new ideas, even if you are satisfied with what you already have. Don’t be lazy and settle for good when there is greatness around the corner.
Tags: Jennifer Lieberman One-Woman Show Performer Writer Year of the Slut