If a family member or someone you love deeply told you they saw an angel, would you believe them?
“I thought that was an interesting question; and I had no idea what I would do,” said Jared Hecht. But the question inspired him to write three pages for a playwriting class.
Nearly a year later, after writing 20 pages a week and going through nine revisions in rehearsals, Hecht watched his play “Video Galaxy” have its world premiere in May at DePaul University. It was selected as The Theatre School's 2014-15 New Playwrights Series production.
The play is about faith and belief, Hecht noted, but “it’s more about times of transition, when your faith or belief is questioned. How do you navigate? Who do you believe in? Yourself? A loved one? A higher power?”
Rehearsals are the thing
Hecht may have asked similar questions while the production was in rehearsal this past spring.
“Rehearsals are the greatest and the worst thing that has happened,” he said. “It’s amazing to see people have questions about something you wrote.
“Sometimes, as a playwright, you get really lucky. The actors are analyzing a smaller section of the play, their character, and you see them make connections. That’s the coolest thing in the world,” Hecht said.
That’s not always the case, he added. “Sometimes the scenes don’t work well, and I feel bad. The actors are always giving 100 percent. They’re trying really hard to make it work, but it’s not working — it’s the writing.”
At that point, the playwright rewrites the scene. “There were nine revisions during rehearsals for ‘Video Galaxy,’” Hecht said, explaining that he would take input from the actors and the director, faculty member John Jenkins, whom he described as “endlessly wise.”
“Theatre is such a collaborative art form,” said Hecht. “Actors play a lot with each other during rehearsals. They improvise. If someone says something funny, I’ve put it in the script.
“I love improv. It’s super valuable in the play process. I’m not against it ... it helps with bringing the character to the actor rather than the actor to the character,” he said.
Playwrights on stage
It’s not unusual today with new works by living playwrights to have them in the room or on the stage, explained Hecht, “especially in Chicago.”
“Playwrights like to be involved now. They like to really be there to help get the play on its feet,” he said. “And the rehearsal is the prime place where that’s happening.”
During rehearsals for “Video Galaxy,” Hecht thought the original version of a scene he wrote was pretty good. “When in reality, it was the worst of all the rewrites. I can’t know that until I hear the words out loud. For the final scene, there were 15 versions before I thought we were close.”
What’s in a mentor?
Hecht once overheard Phil Dawkins, a playwright at Victory Gardens Theater, say that young theatre artists always want to work at the big theatre companies, like Steppenwolf or the Goodman. “But, Dawkins said it’s way more important to work with people, with specific people who are doing things that you’re interested in.”
When asked about mentors, Hecht said he looks up to a lot of his peers.
“For me, I have the utmost respect for Lucas Baisch, who graduated from The Theatre School last year. He’s 10 times the playwright that I am. I love that I’m friends with him because he makes me think about things in a totally different way all the time.”
Hecht also singled out Janie Killips and Molly Dannenberg, fellow playwrights in this year’s graduating class. “Molly is an incredible writer and Janie uses music in a really wonderful way in her plays,” he said.
‘Big theatre town’ is where he’s staying
Hecht grew up Chanhassen, Minnesota, about 25 minutes south of Minneapolis. He was too small for contact sports, but enjoyed speech, debate and the arts. He was involved with choir and music too, and he liked to write. When it came time for college, he wanted to go into the theatre, to act.
“I felt that theatre is a really great medium to incorporate a lot of all those things that I enjoyed, and there are so many opportunities for the human body to do what it’s capable of doing in theatre,” he said.
His father, on the other hand, wanted Hecht to be a lawyer. They talked a lot, and when his father advised him to apply to just one theatre school, Hecht selected DePaul.
“Chicago is a big theatre town, and I was more interested in theatre than film or TV,” said Hecht.
His first year as an acting student was “pretty rough.” He switched to playwriting in his second year and hasn’t looked back. This June, he graduates from DePaul University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in playwriting.
And, “Video Galaxy” is not the first play Hecht has written. His work, “Convention or The Winos,” which he conceptualized while on a Megabus ride from Minneapolis to Chicago, was presented this past winter by The Wulfden Theatre Company with Theatre Y.
He also is reworking a third play, “Love at the Halifax, Holiday Inn: Express and Suites.”
As for acting, Hecht had a small role in the TV series “Sirens,” playing a high school DJ. He’s done commercials and some videos and continues to audition for select roles.
His immediate future, however, is working with Baisch and other contemporaries at Wulfden.
“I’m staying in Chicago and talking with people about assistant directing,” he said. “And, I’m going to keep writing. I love writing a lot. Might not be plays, but other things.”
One in a series of stories about graduates from the Class of 2015