“Hit The Wall” is a new play by Jake Shore thar is set to premiere in NYC this July. The play follows a famous graffiti artist named Amir who has just gotten out of prison and must keep his identity anonymous. Rae, his protege, is very talented which leads Amir to become increasingly jealous towards her. When Amir’s sanity starts to wane, it puts both himself and Rae into a precarious situation.
Recently, playwright Jake Shore discussed the play via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your talent for writing and what was it about plays and the theater that most interested you?
Jake Shore (JS): In high school I realized that I was getting good grades on my papers, but I think the discovery was in college when I started writing short stories. I read short stories in high school. I wasn’t a bookworm but I wanted to be. Reading didn’t come very easily but I worked at it. I remember early on in college writing creative paragraphs and I didn’t know what they were but I wanted them to be something and then when I wrote my first short story there was a change. I wasn’t writing the stories for an assignment or anything having to do with school. I just started writing them, and I could see them, and I could feel where they were going. I think it might’ve been the third or fourth story I wrote that I remember knowing that something was happening on the page that in some sense couldn’t be denied. I still believe that it was that short story alone that got me into graduate school. My father is a choreographer so I grew up going to all kinds of performances. I think that theater lived in me before I started writing plays. I’d never written a play or thought about it, but when I got to graduate school, I met one playwright in particular and to watch him hand off his script to actors and the way he sat in the audience was beautiful. Theater to me is like chess. There are other great games, wonderful games, but there is one that is dominant. One that is eternal. That’s theater. It is superior because it looks life and death so squarely in the face and when it works on the absolute highest level it’s like light is shining in from another world, and it is wonderful to see that light.
MM: Why did you decide to base a play around a graffiti artist?
JS: Growing up in Rhode Island, I started seeing images of Andre the Giant in unusual places in the town where I lived and in the city of Providence. There was one sticker in particular on a yield sign as you got off of the highway. I remember vividly wondering what this was. In Providence there were bigger Andre the Giant images on walls. Years later I found out these were all put there by the graffiti artist Shepard Fairey. I think this was before he paired the image of Andre the Giant with the word OBEY. Shepard Fairey went to the Rhode Island School of Design and is one of the reasons I was particularly well positioned to see these Andre the Giant images, his earliest graffiti. Later on, when I learned more about his work, I was struck by his almost insane commitment to art. It made me feel less alone, and it also keyed me into graffiti as an art form. Graffiti artists are vigilantes. They are illegal. They take fame and turn it completely on its head. They want their art to be famous, and famous for all of the right reasons. Shepard Fairey was the first graffiti artist who showed me how this type of art can change the world. There is something intrinsic in graffiti that has to do with the power dynamic of how art is displayed that I absolutely love. Instead of going through all of the channels to get your art into a museum, the graffiti artist takes their art into the museum and just sticks it on the wall. One reason I wanted to write a play like this is because graffiti artists want walls so badly. That’s sort of where it started.
MM: How much research did you do into this artistic subculture?
JS: Not too much. I once knew someone who really lived it. They dressed like a construction worker and went out into the city all the time to tag walls. They breathed it for real and knowing them, looking back, even though it was brief, was a treat. Regardless, my play is by no means an accurate representation of the current graffiti culture. There’s almost a medieval quality to my play where graffiti is used, really, as a vehicle to talk about art in general. My plays often exist in a slightly tangential reality. Could these characters actually exist? Yes. But there is a surrealistic aspect to this play.
MM: What’s your favorite part of the play and why?
JS: I like when the characters start wondering whether they’re central characters in a play.
MM: How did you get this play staged and what was the process of finding the casting like?
JS: It was a big thrill that Spin Cycle co-produced my last play, “Adjust The Procedure,” and in a way it was the success of that project that led to this one. I’ve also wanted to work with Frigid like this for a long time. Once Spin Cycle and Frigid were on board, there was a bit of a snowball effect where I was able to connect with Timothy Haskell, and then came Paul Smithyman and Allie Guerrero, and it just kept attracting amazing artists. The process of finding the cast was great. I always enjoy casting. I got to spend some time with the director, Timothy Haskell, which was fun, and we saw some outstanding actors.
MM: What have your past plays been about?
JS: I’ll stick to the ones that have been staged and not the ones in the drawer: A bureaucracy in higher education during Covid. A priest who commits a heinous crime and gets crucified for it. A town at war that pays informants to get the names of the dead. Four young women who try to sell a whole bunch of drugs during Christmas. A painting that starts moving. A professor who starts murdering people to protect her student. This will be my tenth play staged in New York and I don’t like mulching over the same subject matter so it’s a little all over the place.
MM: What other projects are you working on right now and what themes might you like to explore in future works?
JS: I’ve been working on a novel for about six years. I have an idea about firefighters that I think could be a play.
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
JS: Long prose is a bit of a white whale. I would like to write a novel that succeeds. I think that, ultimately, I’d like to fake an alien invasion and then claim it’s a piece of immersive theater. Joking!
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“Hit The Wall” runs July 13 – August 11 at The Kraine Theater at 85 E 4th Street, New York, NY 10003. Tickets are available at www.frigid.ny.