The play takes place in modern-day Manhattan at a magazine company, not exactly The New York Times, but most definitely inspired by it, where the playwright had worked in the past. It starts on a normal work day for a group of aspiring writers who are growing tired of the monotony of their desk jobs. Dean stumbles in hungover from a party at the home of the 'office freak', Gloria, the night prior. As the day goes on, everyone goes about their business, though tensions are high with a dispute over who should be allowed to write a story on a deceased singer, and Gloria begins to act stranger than usual.
In a sudden shift in tone, gun shots are heard in another area of the office space and Gloria emerges, shooting and killing many workers, including Miles and Ani, leaving Dean and the boss, Nan, alive. Kendra had left the building for coffee and Lorin escapes from another area of the building unseen. Gloria approaches Dean and assures him that she doesn't want to kill him because he was nice to her after her party. She thanks him for being nice and then shoots herself, ending act 1.
The story then follows the fallout of each character's life as they try to cope with the stress of witnessing the events and feud over who deserves a book deal based on the events of the shooting. Act II follows their various attempts at monetizing and creating success off of their traumas. Nan is the only one who is able to put her experience into something worth reading and it gets picked up by a film production company in LA. Questions on the reasoning behind going postal and workplace toxicity are posed during the play, as well as who profits off of mass shootings, what will people do in order to achieve their own ambitions, and who gets remembered after such tragic events.
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins was born in Washington, D.C. on December 29, 1984. He was raised by his mother, Patricia Jacobs, who was a Harvard graduate and lawyer. He graduated high school as Valedictorian and went on to study Anthropology at Princeton University from which he graduated in 2006. In 2007, he earned a Masters in Performance Studies from NYU. That same year he started work in the New Yorker's fiction department as an editorial assistant. It was during this time he wrote his first play Neighbors. In 2010 he quit his job and moved to Berlin through the Fulbright Fellowship Program. While in Germany, he wrote his next plays An Octoroon and Appropriate along with the start of Gloria. Jacobs-Jenkins returned to the U.S. in 2012 to study at Juilliard's Lilia Acheson Wallace Playwrights program. During this time, he also worked at: NYU as an adjunct professor, Baryshnikov Arts Center where he had a residency, Signature Theatre’s Residency program where he also had a playwright residency, as well as various teaching positions at Princeton. Most recently in 2016 he was named a MacArthur Fellow.
Jacobs-Jenkins was born in Washington, DC. His father, Benjamin Jenkins, is a retired dentist and his mother, Patricia Jacobs, is a business consultant. He graduated from Princeton University in 2006, with a major in anthropology, and earned a master's degree in performance studies from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in 2007. He has taught playwriting at the Tisch School and also at Princeton. He graduated from the Lila Acheson Wallace Playwrights Program at The Juilliard School.
He worked at the New Yorker where he edited and wrote reviews. He became a member of the Signature Theatre Residency Five program in 2013. The program "guarantees three full productions of new work."
Neighbors premiered Off-Broadway at the Public Theater/Public LAB in February - March 2010, and was then presented at the Matrix Theatre Company, Los Angeles in August 2010, directed by Nataki Garrett. The play was produced by the Mixed Blood Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota in September to October 2011, also directed by Nataki Garrett. It premiered in Boston in 2011 with Company One.
He received the 2014 Obie Award for Best New American Play for his plays Appropriate and An Octoroon.
An Octoroon is an adaptation of The Octoroon by Dion Boucicault. It first ran at Performance Space New York from June 24 to July 3 2010. It then ran Off-Off-Broadway at the Soho Rep in April 2014 to June 2014 and then at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, Brooklyn, New York, from February 2015 to March 29, 2015.Artists Repertory Theatre, Portland, Oregon, staged An Octoroon from September 3 to October 1, 2017.
Appropriate was produced Off-Broadway by the Signature Theatre, at the Pershing Square Signature Center, from March 16, 2014 to April 13, 2014. The play was nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play, and also won 2014 Obie Awards for Direction (Liesl Tommy) and Performance (Johanna Day). Michael Billington in his review of the 2019 production at the Donmar Warehouse (London), wrote: "...he appropriates the classic American family drama with results that are both gravely serious and mordantly funny...What is exhilarating about the play is that Jacobs-Jenkins pushes everything to the limits."
War premiered at the Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven, in December 2014, as a commission from the Yale Rep. Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, the cast featured Tonya Pinkins, Philippe Bowgen, Rachael Holmes, Greg Keller and Trezana Beverley. War opened at the Lincoln Center LCT3 series Off-Broadway on May 21, 2016 in previews, officially on June 6, directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, and ran through July 3.He wrote War while on a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany.
His play Everybody was produced Off-Broadway by the Signature Theatre, and opened on January 31, 2017 in previews, officially on February 21. The play is "a modern riff on one of the oldest plays in the English language." Everybody is suggested by the 15th-century morality play Everyman. Directed by Lila Neugebauer, the cast includes Jocelyn Bioh, Brooke Bloom, Michael Braun, Marylouise Burke, Louis Cancelmi, Lilyana Tiare Cornell, David Patrick Kelly, Lakisha Michelle May and Chris Perfetti. The role of Everybody is chosen by lottery.Jacobs-Jenkins explained the play: "The concept...is that every night there’ll be a different Everyman, chosen by lottery, so the cast will shift a lot. This may be an insane idea. We’re assuming all these lovely actors are going to memorize the entire script.” Everybody is a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
His new play, titled Girls, will premiere at Yale Repertory Theatre from October 4, 2019 to October 26. The play will be directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz and choreographed by Raja Feather Kelly. The play is a contemporary version of Euripides’ Greek tragedy The Bacchae, and contains dance music and live-streaming video. His work has been seen at The Public Theater, Signature Theater, PS122, Soho Rep, Yale Repertory Theatre, Actors Theater of Louisville, The Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles, Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, the Wilma Theater (Philadelphia), CompanyOne and SpeakEasy Stage in Boston, Theater Bielefeld in Bielefeld, Germany, the National Theatre in London, and the HighTide Festival in the UK.
Jacobs-Jenkins currently serves on the board of Soho Rep in New York City. He will join the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin MFA playwriting program, in the 2019 semester. He is joined by Annie Baker, with whom he served as co-artistic directors for the MFA playwriting program at Hunter College of the City University of New York.
Tiffany Gilly (she/her) is doing what she can to be an advocate and ally to Black People and People of Color through her art. She is an actor who seeks to support theatre and stories by Black Playwrights and Playwrights of Color, so she started this play-reading group to increase the knowledge of plays by non-White Playwrights as a starting point or a stepping stone for further exploration as artists.