50-for-50 interview: Jill Soloway, activist entertainer

jill soloway

As a fan of the original TV series about the famous blended Brady family, I of course enjoyed the stage play reenactments that Jill Soloway and her sister Faith created and mounted at The Annoyance Theater in Chicago. But it was their darkly hilarious, overtly feminist, lesser-known The Miss Vagina Pageant that turned me into a borderline-obsessive fan. Jill Soloway never backs down from her righteous beliefs and political stances, yet she always manages to retain the funny and embrace the complexities resident within them. To paraphrase my favorite you-get-it-all-from-the-title self-help book, if Jill Soloway is not fearless in fact, she is absolutely doing it anyway. Mischievously, skillfully, and above all, unapologetically.

When did you decide to become a writer?

I started writing stories to entertain myself as a little kid, to entertain my friends when I was in high school. After my sister and I created the stage play, THE REAL LIVE BRADY BUNCH, we met some agents who encouraged me to write a TV spec script. Soon after that I got paid and officially became a TV writer.

Who was your favorite teacher?

I loved my college film professor at UW Madison, JJ Murphy. He taught us how to be artists first, writers second. There’s also a woman in LA named Joan Scheckel who teaches directing workshops. I learned more from her in 6 weeks than I learned in my entire life. Working with her is like being in the presence of Stanislavsky or Stella Adler or Uta Hagen. She is a true master.

What do you love to write about?

I like to write about unrootable female protagonists trying to get through life.

What has writing taught you?

That people have to DO something to GET WHAT THEY WANT to make a scene interesting. It works in life too. DO something to get what you want.

How has writing made you stronger?

Spending time with words and ideas creates a real relationship with your unconscious. I guess that makes you stronger. You really know yourself if you write enough, the same things come up over and over again for your characters and they are often direct maps of what’s happening in your life.

If you could go back in time and tell 10-year-old you anything, what would it be?

Relax.

What are your five favorite books, blogs or things to read?

  1. I read JEZEBEL every day.
  2. I gobble up everything ever written by MICHELLE TEA.
  3. I like DIABLO CODY’S tumblr.
  4. I like Tavi Gevinson’s blog, THESTYLEROOKIE.COM
  5. http://resolved2worship.xanga.com/ it’s by this christian homeschooling mommyblogger named a. ann. 7 kids. An eighth on the way. I’m obsessed with her. [UPDATE: defunct]

Jill Soloway is an author, comedian, playwright, feminist, Jewess, and Emmy-nominated television writer. She was an executive producer and show-runner of the Showtime show The United States of Tara and served as writer and co-executive producer on the HBO original series, Six Feet Under. With her sister Faith Soloway, she co-created The Miss Vagina Pageant and The Real Live Brady Bunch at the Annoyance Theater in Chicago. In Los Angeles, she created the long-running live reading series Sit-‘n’-Spin. Somewhere in space and time, she also strung together enough spare moments to write her brilliantly-titled memoir, Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants.

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