To me, history is so much more than the boring statistics that tortured all of us in school. History, when properly told, is a collection of stories of people through time. Yes, we need the journalistic questions of who, what, where, and when, but, to me, the depth of history is answered in the why and the how of the people. Their lives, and how they went about things, always with an emphasis on the core issue of why, is how we learn true history.
Last month I wrote of Dorothy Day: who she was, some of the things she did, where she was, when she was there, but I hope I adequately shared with you so that you grasped the important how and why she lived. Her passionate love of God drove her, and little by little, she tried to make lives of people better to share the divine love she experienced.
Therefore, this month, in line with my upcoming book, Tottenville Speaks, I want to fast forward in discussing Tottenville history and its people. I wasn’t here when Dorothy Day was contributing to Tottenville history, but I am here as an up and coming Tottenville woman is living Tottenville history with her skills and talent. It is a privilege to share this interview of Jaclyn Lurker.
AM: Jackie, let’s begin by speaking about your education.
JL: At St.John’s University, I earned a BA in English Literature, with a minor in Psychology, going on to earn a MA in Psychology at Hunter College.
AM: Let’stalk now about your writing. What have been your most recent works?
JL: My short story “Insult and Insolence” was included in the book Bad Austen.
The Staten Island Playwright’s Collective presented “Tailor-made,” a short story adapted into an original short play, inWacky Love Shorts in February 2011. This led to their most recent presentation in February 2012 of 7 By 7: 7 DeadlySinful Shorts, where I wrote of Pride in “In the House of Mourning.”
AM: As a Tottenville native, what would you say has been Tottenville’s influence on your work?
JL: Fascinated by the Revolutionary War Period, the Conference House always has been my favorite spot in Tottenville. When live original theater came to the Conference House with “JacobMarley's Christmas Carol,” I was first introduced to the Staten Island theater community. Three of the actors performing in it went on to Wacky Love Shorts and 7 By 7: 7 Deadly Sinful Shorts: Rina Sklar in “Tailor-made,” Joseph Smith in “In the House of Mourning,” and Charlie McLaughlin with his performances on the sins of Anger and Greed.
AM: Tell us more about “In the House of Mourning.”
JL: This was my first writing of a play from scratch. With the Collective, we workshopped, I did editing, and the creative process pushed me out of my comfort zone. Originally, I wrote a comedy about pride, but the feedback was more receptive to drama.
AM: What challenges did you have in writing this play?
JL: The play had a common theme, found in many other works. For money, do you go with other’s desires, or stand by one’s own principles? When I mentioned that to a friend, looking to be more original, the reply was that everything’s been“done” before, but it depends on how “you” do it.
Then, while in Rome, I saw the Caius cestus, a pyramid built right into an ancient Roman wall. Legend has it that a man who died mandated in his will that his son would not inherit unless he built this pyramid within 365 days. A number is etched into the pyramid as proof of meeting the deadline. That’s when I realized I wasn’t going to come up with anything “original.”
AM: Any other challenges?
JL: A fortune cookie saying hints on the challenge all writers face. “Art is a craft, not an art.”
The difficult part is when what you see in your head doesn’t come out on paper. That’s where the challenge of craft comes in. As a writer, you search for the right language and mechanics to make it the way you envision. It’s important to me to have some kind of meaning in my writing.
AM: How did you add to the meaning of “In the House of Mourning?”
JL: A quote from Ecclesiastes, along with EdithWharton’s House of Mirth, was my inspiration for the title.
“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,while the heart of the fool is in the house of mirth.” -Ecclesiastes 7:4
There are several layers to writing a play, especially one to be included in a collection having a unifying theme. The set, the names of the characters, what they wear, how they walk, all add to the layers. The audience doesn’t need to know the symbols to appreciate the performance, but the inclusion of symbols adds layers to discover.
AM: Name a few of the symbols you utilized.
JL: The character Colton Hawthorne's name has the symbol of a horse, and wearing a purple shirt connected to pride symbolism. Dr. Francis Hawthorne, the good brother, gets his name from St. Francis of Assisi, the exact opposite to pride. Verity Gold has a name meaning both truth and greed. A character with no filter, she can’t help but speak the truth, even though she loses if the brothers reconcile.
The cast of “In the House of Mourning” from left to right:
Dr. Francis Hawthorne (Joseph Smith)
Verity Gold (Marissa Terzino),
Colton Hawthorne (RJ Lucci)
AM: What encourages you in your writing?
JL: There’s a purpose to my writing, even if I’m the only one who notices and gets enjoyment out of it. I get motivation from people who enjoy reading and understanding what I wrote. It is so encouraging to be able to open people’s minds to look at things differently.
AM: What direction do you see your personal writing path leading?
JL: I see myself continuing to write short stories, looking for opportunities to write more plays, and eventually a novel in my future in the mystery genre. With my psychology background, I am drawn to the workings of the mind, so my writing has to be meaningful, very character orientated, with well-defined characters whose actions will show the story.
AM: Is there a current writing project in the works?
JL: I’m working on a series of four historical mysteries set on Staten Island that follow a family through several generations. Writing in first person is more natural for me, with dialogue my strength, so it may possibly be through personal letters.
AM: Thanks, Jackie, for sharing with us this glimpse into your writing.
To those reading this blog, please add your comments about this first interview done on the Tottenville blog. Your feedback is very important to me.
What did you think of this interview format?
Are there any questions or comments for Jaclyn Lurker?
Any suggestions for interviews for future blog posts? Maybe you?
This is the opportunity for Tottenville to speak to me. I’m listening.
Book review of Bad Austen http://www.angiemangino.com/Bad-Austen.html
Staten Island Playwrights Collective on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/statenislandplaywrightscollective