Jacqueline Goldfinger, a Hot Philly Playwright — and a Really Big Stork

Meet a hot Philly playwright — and a really big stork

Philadelphia playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger was pregnant with her twins when a prenatal test came back with a little bit of an odd result. Everyone’s fine now — the twins are 7 — but the episode, along with the research Goldfinger did at the time, eventually gave birth to her new play, Babel.

It’s having its Philadelphia premiere Feb. 13 through March 8 at Theatre Exile.

Babel tells the story of two couples, one a lesbian couple, one a straight couple, who receive the results of prenatal tests and then wrestle with decisions.

They do get some assistance from a “talking stork who wants to be a stand-up comedian,” Goldfinger said. “He gives his insight because he has carried so many babies.”

Anita Holland and Frank Nardi Jr. as the stork in Jacqueline Goldfinger's "Babel," playing at Theatre Exile from Feb. 13-March 8.
Courtesy of Theatre Exile Anita Holland and Frank Nardi Jr. as the stork in Jacqueline Goldfinger’s “Babel,” playing at Theatre Exile from Feb. 13-March 8.

Goldfinger’s play gets into the ethics of reproductive technology, which can be uncharted territory here in the U.S. “It’s scary,” she said. In Europe, there are already protocols about what is ethical, but not so here. “We’re going to be the testing grounds for many of these new technologies.”

“That’s what’s wonderful about theater,” said Goldfinger, a rising star nationally. “We can take these huge terrifying ideas and put them into active stories that make you laugh and also make you think.”

Read the full article from The Philadelphia Inquirer by Jane M. Von Bergen here.

Ryan Quinn to Direct DAD’S SEASON TICKETS (Nov. 13-Jan. 17) at Milwaukee Repertory Theater

“From oft forgotten or unheard sides of history, to powerfully resonant stories of today, this season in particular looks at life from myriad perspectives, and allows our audiences the opportunity to view the world through a different lens,” artistic director Mark Clements said in a statement.

The season will open with My Way: A Musical Tribune to Frank Sinatra (Sept. 11-Nov. 8), created by David Grapes and Todd Olson with a book by Olson. Directed by Kelley Faulkner, the musical will feature the greatest hits from Sinatra’s five-decade career.

Next up will be Titanic the Musical (Sept. 15-Oct. 25), with a book by Peter Stone and music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, a musical retelling of the stories of those aboard the fateful ship. Clements will direct.

Following will be the co-world premiere of Meghan Brown’s The Tasters (Sept. 22-Nov. 1). Tasters have the important job of protecting high-ranking government officials from assassination attempts by serving as food tasters. The system is thrown off when one taster goes on a hunger strike. Laura Braza will direct.

The season will continue with an adaptation of the Agatha Christie classic, Murder on the Orient Express (Nov. 10-Dec. 13), adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig. Detective Hercule Poirot must battle the clock to solve a murder on a train full of suspects who all have a motive and an alibi.

Next will be a musical comedy from Matt Zembrowski, Dad’s Season Tickets (Nov. 13-Jan. 17). Directed by Ryan Quinn, the musical asks the simple question: Who will inherit Frank’s prized season ticket at Lambeau Field?

See the full season lineup here.

Regina Taylor, Distinguished Writer to be Inducted into the The Texas Institute of Letters 2020

TEXAS INSTITUTE OF LETTERS ANNOUNCES NINETEEN DISTINGUISHED WRITERS

TO BE INDUCTED

For the 84th year,members of the Texas Institute of Letters (TIL) have decided on the induction of new members to join the ranks of the distinguished honor society founded in 1936 to celebrate Texas literature and to recognize distinctive literary achievement.

The TIL’s membership consists of the state’s most respected writers – including winners of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, PEN/Faulkner Award, Academy Award, Americas Award, International Latino Book Award, and the MacArthur “Genius” grant. Membership is based on ongoing and exceptional literary accomplishment.  Members of the Texas Institute of Letters have overwhelmingly approved nineteen writers to join the ranks of the TIL. 

The 2020 honorees include poets Cyrus Cassells, ir’ene lara silva, Emmy Pérez, and Loretta Diane Walker; award-winning playwrights Octavio Solis and Regina Taylor (also a Golden Globe winner); novelists Glenn Blake, Kathleen Kent, and Natalia Sylvester; bestselling journalists/editors/publishers Nate Blakeslee, Dan Goodgame, and Dan Williams; award-winning songwriters James McMurtry and Robert Earl Keen; environmental writer and editor Andrew Sansom; scholars Andrew R. Graybill and Emma M. Pérez; children’s and YA author J.B. (Jessica) Powers; and photo-historian of award-winning Southwestern cultural histories Bill Wright.

Dr. Carmen Tafolla, President of the Texas Institute of Letters states, “The move to diversify and include a wide variety of literary genres in our analysis of literary accomplishment has continued to bring us a rich base of outstanding word-crafters. We are extremely proud of the exceptional work these individuals represent. These nineteen literary masters and innovators span the creative gamut from stage plays to song lyrics and from novels to poetry, journalism, short stories, publishing, children’s works, and scholarly books.”  

New members will be inducted at the upcoming TIL annual meeting, to be held in Georgetown, Texas March 27-29.  The Annual TIL Literary Awards will also be presented at the weekend’s events. For more information, please visit the TIL website: www.texasinstituteofletters.org or email Carmen Tafolla, president@texasinstituteofletters.org.

From: TIL President, Dr. Carmen Tafolla

Playing God: Jacqueline Goldfinger Talks About Her Newest Play

Commissioned by National New Play Network, Jacqueline Goldfinger’s BABEL comes to Theatre Exile in a couple weeks as part of a rolling world premiere with five other theaters across the country. The winner of the Smith Prize for Political Theater, the latest play by one of Philadelphia’s best-regarded playwrights tackles the moral questions behind modern eugenics and asks how far we will go when playing God? Phindie talked to Jackie about the themes and inspirations behind her new work.

Phindie: What inspired BABEL?

Jacqueline Goldfinger: When I was pregnant with the twins, we had some odd test results and had to do additional testing. While, thankfully, the kids turned out to be fine, the additional testing opened our eyes to the wide, and sometimes shady, world of reproductive technologies. I thought, this would make a great play! And then I had twins. And I spent the next five years raising twins. So it wasn’t until they began kindergarten that I was able to sit down, research properly, and write the play.

Phindie: Why is it called BABEL?

Jacqueline Goldfinger: The title BABEL is taken from the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel; where humans tried to climb close to God in order to rule the world. Spoiler Alert: The attempt failed. The tower and the people climbing came crashing down. And God split the community into factions that eventually began warring with each other. Much like the Tower of Babel, reproductive technology is reaching towards God by trying to control everything from hair and the color to attempting to sequence and define genes. What will happen as we reach? Will will rise? Will we fall? Who will we allow to play God to future generations?

Phindie: How challenging was it to explore moral questions around eugenics within a narrative play?

Jacqueline Goldfinger: There are so many moral and ethical questions around eugenics that I needed to narrow the scope of the conversation in order to create a compelling story that engaged with, but was not overwhelmed by, the intellectual issues at hand. So, I narrowed the conversation to one procedure that will be available in the future, which is in utero genetic testing. By narrowing the scope of the eugenics conversation, I could really have two pregnant couples wrestling with the specifics of genetic testing results for their babies—and also dive into the bigger questions, like, even if you know what each gene can do, you don’t know what it will do, which will predominate. What do we do with folks who have a predisposition to, say, extreme violence? Do we regulate how they live, just to be safe, to make sure they can’t hurt anyone? But what if they wouldn’t hurt anyone? Can we judge and regulate people’s behavior based on what might happen?

The play doesn’t necessarily answer all of these big questions, although we do follow a complete story with the couples. But the play does encourage the audience to think about these questions for themselves – because we are going to face them, sooner rather than later.

Babel Theatre Exile

Actors Frank Nardi, Jr. and Bi Jean Ngo in rehearsal for the production of BABEL at Theatre Exile.

Phindie: BABEL is being produced across the country and won the Smith Prize for Political Theater. How do you, personally, judge success as a playwright?

Jacqueline Goldfinger: My metric for judging success as a playwright is, do I reach the audience? Do I make them laugh, cry, think, hope, dream… in all the right places? With this play, folks seem to be enjoying the balance between comedy—like, ya’ know, a six foot talking stork who wants to be a stand-up comedian—and the harder, serious questions of the play.

Phindie: What would you like the audience to take from seeing the play?

Jacqueline Goldfinger: First, I hope they are entertained. While the play does tackle serious issues, it also embraces love, hope, dreams, and laughter. Second, I hope that they go home talking about the quandaries posed by reproductive technologies which could, very easily, stray down the unenlightened path of the tragedy of eugenic testing in the past.

Phindie: Thanks Jackie!

BABEL runs February 13 to March 8, 2020, at Theatre Exile, 1340 S. 13th Street. It’s produced at Theatre Exile as a part of a National New Play Network rolling world premiere, with dates at Unicorn Theatre (Missouri), Good Company Theatre (Utah), Contemporary American Theater Festival (West Virginia), Passage Theatre Company (New Jersey), Florida Studio Theatre, and one other venue TBA.

Article by Christopher Munden for Phindie, Independent Coverage of Philadelphia Theatre and Arts