Emergency Management: Spotlight on Playwright Jason Grasl

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There are many actors that become writers.  It's natural to want to tell a story in your own words - to work on so many projects for other people, only to have a spark of inspiration in your own brain.  But Jason Grasl is no ordinary actor-turned-writer.  Jason probably doesn't know this, but he was one of the most involved playwrights that submitted last year.  He emailed me, a lot.  Now I say this not because this is the reason why his play Emergency Management, was chosen (by no means is this some kind of criteria).  I say this to highlight that Jason is thorough, attentive, and detail-oriented.  He was excited about his play, and you knew he worked hard on it.  You could tell it had been gestating in his head for a long time and he was passionate about it.  And well, in turn, we became passionate about it too.


Staged reading of Dawn Jamieson's On the Mangled Beam

The first time I met Jason Grasl was at the 2010 Playwrights Retreat.  He was cast in the workshop of On The Mangled Beam and at that point I had only known him as an actor. Later, I once asked him about his headshot, and he told me that he "broods".  And that often he gets cast as the "jerky ex-boyfriend or broody professional".   But like most actors, he hopes to play a range throughout his acting career (see his reel to below), venturing into maybe darker roles in plays like Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman, or being able to work on some of his favorite shows on TV, like Boss, The Newsroom, or Homeland.

And with shows like those on his mind, it's clear to see where he got his inspiration for Emergency Management, a play about rising political star, Lanford Walkerton (played by Robert Vestal), on the eve of his announcement as a Flagstaff mayoral candidate.  Along with his sister Mena (played by Marisa Quinn), he was adopted into a non-Native family, and struggles with issues of identity, belonging, and family.  But if TV political dramas have taught you anything, it should be that everyone has a secret and the stakes are high, and in the case of Jason's play, it's life or death. 

Marisa Quinn
Rob Vestal
It is certainly an exciting play, with characters that are unique and complicated but down to earth at the same time.  You might see someone you know in one of these characters, or might even see a bit of yourself in them.  It's a compelling story about a specific cast of characters in Flagstaff, but the themes are universal and all the nitty gritty information doesn't go over your head.  As Jason says, "While it involves a lot of politics and hopefully sheds some light on issues that might not be as well known, ultimately, I think it’s about how these people deal with their own personal politics and issues and how that ends up affecting the greater community politics at large."

Jason Grasl is a really smart talented individual (in part probably due to his beautiful wife, Jessica Rieder, who is a fabulous writer as well, and has encouraged him throughout the process).  He's well spoken, well informed, and humbly executes both his crafts always trying to do his very best.  He really fleshed out his characters, has stepped into their shoes and explored their psyche.  And, from my point of view, it has been exciting to see how these characters have changed over time.  But I wanted to learn more about Jason's psyche (maybe even his deep dark secrets), so I was delighted when he agreed to answer a few of my questions.  And he sent them back to me, in record time (like all of his paperwork).  Although there were no skeletons in his closet revealed (this time), it was interesting to hear what this new writing process was like for him.

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