I believe that making theater is a deeply human instinct. We have the powerful need to tell stories surrounded by other people. We tell stories in an attempt to organize the chaos of human experience into meaningful patterns, to feel less alone, to affirm our experiences, to learn more about each other. Theater extends a powerful invitation for us to exercise our judgment and empathy. I believe the impulse to tell and be told stories is primal, essential and necessary.

Every time I begin a new theater project,

I begin with a question: 

“Why this story, here, now, today?” 

This question propels me to create necessary theater. 

This is the theater I want to make and want to participate in. 

Necessary theater grapples with the big, messy human questions of our time and our inherited histories.  We may not have answers, and in fact,  that’s ok. I believe that theater as a form is not set up to deliver sermons or answers but instead invites us to reflect and act on new sets of questions, ideas and ways of doing things. Theater is a place where we can gather to rumble with conflict, with difference, with ambiguity, with the complexity of the human condition.  

 

A commitment to collaboration and listening drives my approach to directing and artistic leadership. I like to begin every process letting others speak first. There is power in the question: “What do you think?”  I believe that listening is a leader’s hidden superpower.  My task as a director is to create space for diverse perspectives and imaginations to co-exist, to engage, to emerge.  My aim as a leader is to help artists and artistic processes find their potential, and to create space for us to have  the courage to reveal our vulnerabilities. Necessary theater is not possible without the courage of vulnerability.  

 

I've always been driven by a passion for nurturing and championing new plays and playwrights.  The art and artists that I am passionate about are wildly diverse. I am aesthetically omnivorous, drawn to myriad forms, genres, styles, historical periods.  My only requisite is work that: provides us with the space to reflect on the condition of being alive in all of its profundity, horror, beauty and weirdness, that engages our capacity for wild imagination; that feels muscular, visceral, alive and demands that we put our bodies on the line and to leave some metaphorical blood on the floor. The genius Russian theater director Lev Dodin said: “True theater is where people both on the stage and in the audience live out their lives fully.” I believe in this fiercely.

 

I want to make theater that creates transformational experiences for myself and my community, that forever changes our DNA.  I strive to create theatre that not only looks like the world we live in but dreams forward the world that we want to live in. As a queer, feminist director, that means I am deeply committed to an inclusive and equitable theater that invites everyone to the table and that brings underrepresented stories and voices to the American theatre.


My dad was a minister. I was raised in a church and loved the rituals of transformation that were at the core of each service, even if I didn’t always quite agree with the messages.  My dad was called to the church. I am called to the theater.  The theater is my church.  Theater is an act of communion. We enter the theater as strangers, and through its alchemical magic, it transforms us into a community where we can imagine alternate worlds together, and by doing this, be better equipped to heal the wounds of our own world and practice compassionate care for one another.

© 2020 by Jessica Holt.

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