MEET ERIKA

Focusing on magical realism as the theme of all of my stories, my plays typically put children at the forefront of the adventure. Navigating themes such as mental illness and grief, I am a firm believer that my characters are not only strong enough to face it, but can help remind grownups everywhere that life is magical and meant to be lived through kindness and bold adventurous pursuits. 

I'm a self-producing playwright who loves directing and building magical worlds that explore themes of mental health. I learned recently that my love of self-producing theatre runs in the family. My gramma used to self-produce theatre inspired by fairy tales in her own backyard. The theatrical events would get the entire community involved, and an evening in Gramma's yard consisted of a home cooked meal, homemade crafts and a full-blown piece of theatre performed by children in the neighborhood. All proceeds were in support of the Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services in Pasadena, CA.

Having grown up in Southern California, Disneyland was my backyard. My mom would often take me to Disneyland for a couple hours to look at the flowers, or watch the parade. There was an appreciation for the amount of storytelling that went into the park from an early age. I later went on to work in entertainment at the Disneyland Resort, where I brought magical worlds to life for people all over the world.

 

My path pursuing theatre has been unique, and has taken me all over the country. I have produced theatre in Boise, New York and Chicago as well as all over Southern California. It all started with a love of acting, and a need to put my own stories up on a stage. And most importantly, a need to innovate theatre. A need to make it feel cinematic.

 

Creative inspirations over the years:

 

Seeing Fantasmic! on opening night at Disneyland when I was 7. I vividly remember thinking, 'We've been walking by this body of water all day as if it was a normal body of water. And all of a sudden, a fully realized show sprung out of it.' I had never realized that theatre could be anywhere like that.

Being a part of the last generation of children to grow up without a cellphone. I spent my childhood outdoors swinging on ropes, climbing trees, playing in the mud and doing circus tricks. That sense of connection with the earth and others keeps you young and hopeful.

Seeing Hook with my dad at age 6. It was the first film that made me fall in love with film soundtracks and the music of John Williams. To date, I can hum note for note every track of the film. This film also set my love of Spielberg films in stone and his ability to make children the heroes of their own story.

Joining the speech team at Mt. SAC. I was a theatre kid, but a friend convinced me that I would love speech team for the theatre events. He was right. I took Gold in the nation for informative speaking, Bronze for Poetry Interp, Gold for Duo Interp, and Bronze for Reader's Theatre. My experience creating reader's theatre pieces is what inspired me to be a playwright.

Taking a reporting class in college. My professor encouraged me to use my voice within the inverted pyramid. It's advice that has stuck with my over the years. It's easy to lose your voice within a certain genre. It's your job to find your voice and stay true to it.

OCD: Everyone has access to all of their thoughts. Most of us partially close the curtain on some of our thoughts. I'm not able to keep the curtain closed very easily. The rush of all thoughts at once, while incredibly difficult, has unlocked worlds that when brought to the stage, has the potential to bring magic and hope to others.

 

 

© 2020 ERIKA JENKO