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Unexpected Reality

Unexpected RealityAfter originally deeming a career as a playwright "unrealistic," Janet Neipris adds another production to her list.


Medford/Somerville, Mass. [02.28.08] When she started out writing short stories as a Tufts undergraduate, Janet Neipris thought the idea of being a playwright was ideal, but "unrealistic." However, in the last five decades since receiving a B.A. in English in 1957, Neipris has seen her dream become a reality and her work produced in major theaters around the world.

Currently the co-head of graduate studies and a professor of dramatic writing at New York University's Tisch College, Neipris' latest piece, "Natives," is being brought to life on the stage of the Invisible Theater in Tucson, Ariz.

The play depicts the story of a mother whose life is thrown into upheaval when her three grown daughters unexpectedly return home. As a mother of three girls, Neipris told the Arizona Daily Star that though the play does slightly resemble her life from an emotional standpoint, she was really trying to take a general look into the parent-child relationship.

"What I did want to explore was how some parents can turn their backs on their children when they don't meet their expectations," Neipris said. "I never understood that, but as an educator I see it all the time."

Neipris' playwright career grew out of a long chain of events that began at Tufts. While at the university, the Daily Star reported, she was the recipient of a scholarship from the Boston's Women's Scholarship Association, where years later she would volunteer and be asked to write a play celebrating their 100th anniversary. Despite her lack of playwriting experience, she managed to pull off a play that impressed Boston Globe theater critic Elliot Norton, who then became her mentor.

After Tufts, she decided to build on her playwriting knowledge and enrolled in an M.F.A. program at Brandeis University, later producing works such as "A Small Delegation,""Almost in Vegas" and "The Agreement." In 1995, "A Small Delegation" took her overseas when it was produced in Beijing, a region where she will return this spring to teach 100 of China's best screenwriters, according to the Daily Star.

Aside from being a playwright, Neipris has been at N.Y.U. for the past 15 years and has also written a book called "To Be a Playwright," which is widely used for college writing programs.

Neipris sees Arizona as just the beginning for her new play, feeling that the Invisible Theater has started off the production on the right foot.

"It was a little like falling in love," she told the Daily Star. "When I walked into the first rehearsal, I could tell immediately which actor was playing which character. Each was the perfect embodiment."

As her writing career continues on a path of success, she views everything as a learning process.

"Writing is such a process of discovery," Neipris told the newspaper. "I think the willingness to collaborate is the mark of being solid as a writer."


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