Bloody Poetry Cast and Crew Spotlight: Jessica Jenkins, Thomas Puketza, and Samantha Baugus

Name: Jessica Jenkins
I am: The Director!

Why did you want to direct this show, specifically at the Acrosstown?

The ART offers a unique space to explore complicated plays. In the mission statement, the ART states that it provides a safe space where all people can create unsafe theatre. Bloody Poetry is a play that touches on hard subjects and ugly truths while also exposing the pain of love and the consequences of actions. Further, the characters, based on the true lives and works of the great romantic poets of the 19th century, suffer the consequences of their dedication to their art. Today the ability of art to make a difference in society and in the world is not acknowledged and funding for the arts is being cut and appreciation of the arts seems to be dwindling. This play exemplifies the power of poetry and art, and that it is indeed transformative, another goal stated in the ART’s mission statement.

Does Bloody Poetry have any relevance to our current societal state?

This dovetails from the above question. Yes, I believe that this play has relevance. The poets in this play, who were real people, are portrayed as counter-culturalists, fighting against the tyranny and repression they see in their current social and political system. They fight with their words, and at great cost to themselves and those they love. I think audiences today will be able to identify with the struggle against the status-quo and the frustration the characters express at living in a world that is starkly against the free-spirited and liberal ideals they wish to live. Through art, their ideals were expressed, and they are still remembered today. I also see this play as having the qualities of a classic novel, where the emotions and ideas that are represented transcend time and can resonate with today’s audiences and young people: love, betrayal, loss, dissatisfaction, self-expression, self-exploration, individuality, rebellion, counter-culturalism… the list goes on.

How has the rehearsal process been with your cast and crew?

Directing this play has been a dream. The cast is astonishingly dedicated to, not only the play and being on time to rehearsals, but to the real people they are portraying. They have gone out of their way to learn the lives of their characters, to read not only their character’s poetry, but the works of others who inspired them. They have committed themselves to these characters in a way that I have never seen and are committed to doing right by their memory. This is all in addition to their extraordinary talent and beauty. The crew for this show is also exemplary! The team of dedicated people who is volunteering their time and talent to making this show great is truly amazing. The whole process has been smooth and met with enthusiasm and creativity in ways that I could not have imagined. Thank you to each and every one of you!

Do you think audiences will be shocked by the ideals explored in this script?

I think the play does cover shocking topics, but I have faith that our audiences are ready and eager for honest conversations about hard subjects. I think that the artistry of the play and the performers will evoke questions and conversations about these topics in ways that truly let people explore them and think for themselves. Gainesville’s artistic community continues to grow, and I think that this play fits well into the fold of “shocking ideals” that are being brought to the fore.

Name: Thomas Puketza
I am: The Stage Manager!

What has been your favorite moment working on this production so far?

Probably working on the sound design for the final monologue. There were points where I jumped up and down.

What was your perception or understanding of the Shelley’s and their inner circle before watching Howard Brenton’s interpretation? How has it changed?

I knew the Shelley’s existed, that’s about it. I feel like I know more about the mystique around them, the legend. I’d still like to read the actual history.

What do you think makes this production unique from others that you’ve done?

I haven’t seen a show consume its actors quite like this one. Several members of the cast have used the word “obsessed”.

What kind of effect do you hope this production will have on audiences?

You always want people to empathize with the characters in your story. But I also hope it makes people think, that it provides a useful lens to look at their life and the world. And if nothing else, I hope the show demonstrates what a scrappy black box like ours can do with the right people.

Name: Samantha Baugus
I am: The Assistant Stage Manager!

What has been your favorite moment working on this production so far?

I am continually blown away by the beauty and intensity that Devin brings to Shelley’s poetry. As an English instructor, I see students bored by poetry in general and especially poetry from this time period. As an English scholar, I see people want to strip away the rawness of these poems. Devin re-captures those missing elements stunningly.

What was your perception or understanding of the Shelley’s and their inner circle before watching Howard Brenton’s interpretation? How has it changed?

Mary Shelley is one of my favorite authors and is especially relevant since I study science fiction and fantasy literature. She’s been an inspiration for me for many years and someone I find myself relating to in weird ways. As such, I knew a lot about this group before I ever joined this show; it also comes with the territory of getting a PhD in English—these are some of the most famous writers of the past 200 years, just sort of required knowledge at some point. My perception of these people hasn’t changed but the emotionalism of these poems has become clearer.

What do you think makes this production unique from others that you’ve done?

There is an ease to this play I haven’t experienced before, a coming together of parts to make a whole wherein each part is of equal importance.

What kind of effect do you hope this production will have on audiences?

A revitalization of the power of poetry. Poetry and drama are often studied together in the literary world because they share so much in terms of form and intent. This play is a perfect example of that and I hope that it will open a doorway into both worlds that some might have seen previously closed.

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