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A Brief But Spectacular take on writing from the inside out


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Amna Nawaz: Michael R. Jackson is a Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning playwright and composer.

Tonight, he shares his Brief But Spectacular view, as part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.

Michael R. Jackson, Playwright and Composer: When I sit down to write, my ultimate goal is to find the truth and to figure out how to harness that truth in a way that the audience that I don't know will be able to perceive and to feel.

"A Strange Loop" began as a monologue that I started writing shortly after I graduated from undergrad living in Jamaica, Queens. This was around 2002, 2003. I still hadn't really fully found my voice. I was still in the process of discovery. I didn't know how I was going to pay any of my bills.

I just was trying to figure out where my place in the world would be sort of personally and artistically. I just started writing this kind of thinly veiled personal monologue that was just about a young Black gay man walking around New York wondering why life is so terrible.

Usher is the protagonist of "A Strange Loop." And he is writing a musical about someone named Usher, who is writing a musical out someone named Usher, who is writing a musical about someone Usher, ad infinitum.

My experience has aligned with Usher in a lot of basic ways, in that I am a fat Black gay man, and I have had struggles with my family over my sexuality in the past. But our stories are also different, in that Usher is eternally 25 years old, going on 26. I have gotten older. I'm 42 years old.

From the start of the monologue to Broadway with "A Strange Loop" was 18 years. My perspective on "A Strange Loop" changed in a lot of ways over the years, because sort of, as I evolved, the piece evolved. I often talk about how "A Strange Loop" for some people is a window and for other people it's a mirror, because there are those who watch the story of "A Strange Loop," and they see themselves in it.

For other people, they're not fat, they're not gay, they're not queer, they're not any of the things that Usher is on the outside, but, internally, they feel a kinship with him. And for those people, they're peering through a window. And both of those experiences live alongside each other and actually feed each other.

My hopes for the theater and film space is that people start in their art and in the work that has been produced looking more inward and being a little bit more rigorous with themselves and more truthful.

I hope that we get to a point where that is more celebrated and that that is more commonplace.

My name is Michael R. Jackson, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on writing from the inside out.

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