Plays written by Jane Anderson
THE BABY DANCE
LOOKING FOR NORMAL
THE QUALITY OF LIFE
MOTHER OF THE MAID
The Baby Dance – (3M 2W) Richard and Rachel, a well-off California couple have everything except a child. They locate Wanda and Al, a desperately poor couple in Louisiana who have agreed to let them adopt their next baby. Both parties do their best to make the arrangement work but the class differences create unbearable tensions. When it is discovered that the baby possibly suffered brain damage during the difficult birth, her husband backs away but Rachel wants wants the baby regardless. In the end, the childless couple leaves the baby’s parents with another mouth to feed.
Defying Gravity – (3M 4W) This free structured look at the 1986 Challenger disaster places the teacher who died with six others as they hurtled into space at the center of an exploration of our need to reach beyond ourselves and dare the universe. Defying Gravity artfully interweaves the past with the present and the lives of participants and bystanders, drawing parallels among painter Claude Monet’s artistic quest, the zest of the teacher selected to the first civilian astronaut, the perspectives of her grieving daughter, the aspirations of elderly tourists who drive their Winnebago to Florida to watch the space shot and dream of hotels in space, the guilt felt by a NASA mechanic and his girl friend’s fear of heights.
Looking For Normal – (5M 4W) Roy and Irma have been married for twenty-five years. They have two children. They live in the heartland. They’re respected members of their church and their community. When Roy and Irma go to their pastor for marriage counseling, Roy confesses that he’s a woman trapped in a man’s body and would like to have a sex change. As would be expected, Irma throws Roy out of the house. But their bond as a couple is stronger than either of them imagined, and eventually Irma finds a way to make peace with this unfathomable situation and accept her transformed husband as her lifelong mate. They not only have to wrestle with the meaning of their marriage, they must deal with the delicate dynamics of their family as well. Roy is burdened by his father’s stubborn assessment of his manhood and his mother’s sad acceptance of life’s cruelties. Irma, in the midst of menopause, is struggling with her adolescent tomboy daughter, Patty Ann, who is raging against the injustices of her own budding hormones. And the grown and absent son, Wayne, who has always bemoaned his father’s emotional limitations, is now outraged by his father’s desire to be a woman. Overseeing it all is Roy’s legendary grandmother, who left her husband and son to pursue her own sexual and emotional needs. The play explores the complexities of marriage, family and deconstructs the very notion of love.
The Quality of Life – (2M 2W) Dinah and Bill, a devout, church-going couple from the Midwest are struggling to keep their lives intact after the loss of their daughter. Dinah is compelled to reconnect with her left-leaning cousins in Northern California who’re going through their own trials. Jeannette and Neil have lost their home to a wildfire and Neil has cancer. However they seem to have accepted their situation with astounding good humor, living in a yurt on their burn site and celebrating life with hits of pot and glasses of good red wine. Bill and Dinah are both moved and perplexed by their cousins’ remarkable equanimity. But their sympathy turns to rage when they find out that Jeannette is planning to take her own life to avoid a life of grief without her beloved Neil.
Mother of the Maid – (4W,3M) The tale of Joan of Arc, as seen through the eyes of her mom who is doing her very best to accept the fact that her daughter is different.
“Why do we make theater? Why do we create movies or TV series? It’s because people need an outlet when times are difficult or complex.”
– Jane Anderson, in an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle
Born in the Bay Area of Northern California in 1954, Jane Anderson discovered her drive for show business early on. After a few years in college, Anderson moved to New York City to pursue an acting career. In 1975 she was cast in the Off-Broadway premiere of David Mamet’s breakout play, Sexual Perversity in Chicago.
Besides acting, Anderson also worked as a standup comedian. It was during the creation of her routines that she discovered her passion for writing. She moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980s, earning her livelihood writing for film and television. The Challenger space shuttle disaster inspired her to write her first play, Defying Gravity. Her next play, The Baby Dance, tackled the subject of adoption. For her first feature screenplay, Anderson wrote a romantic comedy called It Could Happen to You about a policeman and a waitress who receives his winning lottery ticket as a tip.
While Anderson and her partner, Tess Ayers, were in the process of adopting their son, Raphael, she got word that her play The Baby Dance was to be made into a TV-movie. When actress-producer Jodie Foster offered her the chance to direct, Anderson took the opportunity to work on the story that so closely paralleled her own life. The movie adaptation, which starred Laura Dern and Stockard Channing, won a Peabody Award, a Golden Globe nomination and three Emmy nominations for best writing and made-for-TV film
Anderson’s next foray into balancing her theatre work with film came when HBO wanted to adapt her play Looking for Normal (which won the 2001 Ovation Award for Best New Play) into a movie. The movie, titled Normal, told the story of a father who confesses to his family his desire for a sex change operation. The moving film received three Golden Globe nominations, six Emmy nominations, while Anderson herself scored nominations from both the Writers and Directors guilds for best writing and directing.
Anderson continued to write for HBO, and the ground-breaking work on their The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom, which stared Holly Hunter, gained her an Emmy, a PEN Award and Writers Guild Award for best teleplay.
Anderson continued to write for television with the movies When Billie Beat Bobby, starting Holly Hunter, and the Emmy-nominated first episode of If These Walls Could Talk II, staring Vanessa Redgrave. However, even with her busy Hollywood schedule, Jane’s theater work (including Food & Shelter, Smart Choices for the New Century, Lynette at 3AM, and The Last Time We Saw Her) have had runs Off-Broadway and in regional theaters all over the country, including Actors Theater of Louisville, Williamstown, McCarter Theater, Long Wharf and Pasadena Playhouse.
Anderson made her feature film directorial debut with 2005’s The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, the story of a 1950s housewife who writes advertising jingles to help keep her family afloat. Continuing the theme of advertising, she joined the team of writers of the critically acclaimed AMC series Mad Men for the show’s second season.
Anderson has directed the two previous incarnations of her newest play, The Quality of Life, but is enjoying the solo role of playwright for the Arena Stage production while collaborating with director Lisa Peterson. Today, Anderson resides in Northern California with Tess and Raphael, where she continues to write for both stage and screen.