Name: J. Julian Christopher
(a.k.a. Christopher Julian Jimenez)
Hometown: Levittown, Long Island – New York
Current Town: Jamaica, NY
Affiliations: INTAR Theatre, The Public Theater, Queensborough Community College
Q: How do you self-identify?
A: That is a very complicated answer. But today I identify as Latino. It took me a long to identify as anything but Queer. In the past decade I began to self identify as Latino. I don’t speak Spanish. I don’t necessarily feel that I have a typical “Latino” upbringing (whatever that means). These days I know my Dominican and Puerto Rican roots have grounded me in my search for identity. I think there is empowerment in ownership of identity to a larger group that identifies the in same way. Not that the larger group defines me, but that I define my own identity within the group, creating a richer and more authentic self. There is not one way to be Latino. That has been a recent discovery.
Q: Tell me about anOTHER.
A: My most recent play is anOTHER, with this funky capitalization in the title, which is purposeful. The play is an exploration of what it means to be “other” in America. I crafted it with the students I teach at Queensborough Community College and the Assistant Director on the show, Heather Huggins. It’s really a celebration of differences in a society that is more comfortable navigating within the status quo. We started with nothing and created an athletic and eclectic show. It was definitely a mixture of devised work and new work… a fusion, if you will.
It was extremely important for us to try and unpack all of our differences, especially living and working in Queens, the most diverse borough of NYC. How do so many people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures interact in such close proximity? The ten students who contributed to the writing and crafting of the production are Jhoel Centeno, Scarlat Fang, Joseph Fiscaletti, Geovanny Guzman, Krismarie Loague, Lang Qi, Maxwell Shokunbi, Ksenia Volynkina, Yineng Ye, and Stephanie Zuniga. These are by far the most fearless students I have ever had the privilege of teaching.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: Currently I’m working on a play called Bruise & Thorn with Pipeline Theatre Company. It is about a gender fluid teen and their Queer cousin surviving life in Jamaica, Queens. They work in a laundromat to survive. Finances become strained and they get caught up in an illegal cockfighting ring. The play dances between realism, fabulism, and fantasy, with a second act comprised of the cast in act one becoming animals in a Halal Live Food store. I’d tell you more, but I have no idea where it is going yet.
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: Working at INTAR Theatre has been my most defining moment. It feels like home to me. When I think of home, I think of safety. I think of a place where I can feel free to express myself unconditionally and with carefree abandon. I consider INTAR Theatre to be my artistic home. My play Locusts Have No King was born out of INTAR’s Bright Untamed Festival for Queer Latino playwrights in 2012 curated by David Anzuelo. What started out as a small one-act, has now grown into my most ambitious work to date. This would not and could not have happened without the support I received from INTAR Artistic Director, Lou Moreno, and the entire staff of INTAR Theatre. Lou gave me the space to create, explore, and challenge myself as a writer. Locusts Have No King is perhaps the least commercial piece I have written. And that’s what makes INTAR so special – They do not shy away from dangerous and thought provoking theatre. We have entered unconventional times and INTAR is assisting Latinx artists in unconventional ways. It’s the most defining moment to find your artistic home.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: I would have to say David Grimm has become a playwriting mentor for me. He was cast as an actor in my play Locusts Have No King. He is such a brilliant actor, and of course a brilliant playwright. I really admire his work and he has offered so much advice and mentorship during the production. I would say he has been an incredible influence on my work. My playwriting heroes are a mixture of playwrights from past and present. One of my all-time favorite playwrights is Paddy Chayevsky. His use of language and non-didactic writing is what I am constantly striving to achieve. He understands the nuance of the human psyche. I love everything he has written.
Of course, I would be remissed not to mention Larry Kramer, who is personal hero of mine for his activism for the LGBTQ and AIDS communities and for his contributions to the stage. I personally believe that The Normal Heart may be one of the most perfect plays ever written.
Currently, one of my favorite playwrights is Andrew Kramer. He is constantly writing the most fucked up, but juicy and delectable characters. Andrew Kramer’s plays are like a Tupperware of freshly baked fudge. You really should only have one at a time, but once you start reading, you’ll devour them. It’s a travesty he is not produced more.
Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Be authentic to who you are in the moment. Authenticity is fluid. My authentic self is different than my authentic self 5 years ago. I think playwrights are most successful when they are writing from a place of truth. We write plays because we have something to say, right? We certainly don’t do it for the money. So hopefully, the impetus comes from a real place. That’s the ideal, I would think.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: I love ostriches, egg whites, hairy bellies, and smiles.
***For more on J. Julian Christopher, see:
- J. Julian Christopher’s Personal Website
- J. Julian Christopher’s Profile on Indie Theater Now
- Read J. Julian Christopher’s plays at the New Play Exchange
- 2015 Salon: Q&A with “Rebel Judy” playwright J. Julian Christopher
- Watch Bulk-The Series
- “Review: ‘Locusts Have No King,’ a Love Triangle Comedy” – Laura Collins-Hughes (New York Times)
- “Off-Broadway Review: ‘Locusts Have No King’ at INTAR Theatre” – Jacquelyn Claire (NY Theatre Guide)
- Locusts Have No King Review – Antonia Lassar (Theatre Is Easy)
- Review: Animals Commit Suicide – (Stage Buddy)