“My First Time” is a new video series in which we invite authors to discuss the trials of writing and publishing that first novel, that first play, that first book of poems. Consider it a chance to see how successful writers got their start, in their own words—it’s a portrait of the artist as a beginner and a look at the creative process, in all its joy, abjection, delusion, and euphoria.
Today, the playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins talks about his first play, Neighbors, which debuted at the Public Theater in 2010. He wrote it when he was twenty-three. “I’m gonna write this play about race,” his thinking went, “so that I don’t have to write more plays about race”:
But what the play taught me, and why I’m thankful for it, is that the room is really wide and long … race is about psychology, it’s about acculturation, it’s about permissions that audiences give themselves, it’s about how people relate to space, how people feel like they belong or don’t belong … it’s about, Who’s the butt of a joke, and what’s the joke?
Yesterday we heard from the cartoonist Gabrielle Bell, and on Monday the novelist J. Robert Lennon kicked off the series. Tomorrow we’ll feature Christine Schutt. You can also see a trailer featuring writers from future installments of “My First Time.”
This series is made by the filmmakers Tom Bean, Casey Brooks, and Luke Poling; we’re delighted to collaborate with them.