Women Playwrights of Diversity: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook

By Jane T. Peterson; Suzanne Bennett | Go to book overview
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MERCILEE M. (LEE) JENKINS

( 1946- )


BIOGRAPHY

Jenkins was born in Detroit where she attended school. Perhaps growing up in Detroit in the 1950s encouraged a sense of humor because Jenkins turned to stand-up comedy, one of her many performance activities, on the way to becoming a playwright and professor. She began her professional life as a writer-performer on KPFA radio in Oakland, California, in the 1970s after completing a master's degree in speech communication at San Francisco State University. At the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, where she received her Ph.D., she developed an interest in oral history. After she returned to the Bay Area and completed her dissertation on women's storytelling, Jenkins became involved with the Antenna Theatre where she worked as an interviewer and audio artist. She received a California Humanities Grant for "Liberty," a taped tour of the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien, based on the histories of the women who built Liberty ships and the men who sailed them. In the mid- 1980s Jenkins began working with the Tale Spinners Theatre writing plays based on oral histories. Three of those plays have been produced. The second play of the three, Dangerous Beauty: Love in the Age of Earthquakes and AIDS, is based on her own experiences as a bisexual woman becoming content with her sexuality and friendships. Her solo performance work continues through such pieces as the comedic Feminist and Fit and the serious You Made Me Love You based on the death of a friend from AIDS. Jenkins most recent plays are She Rises Like a Building to the Sky, based on the history of the Women's Building in San Francisco, and The Two-Bit Tango, adapted from the novel by Elizabeth Pincus.


PLAY DESCRIPTIONS

The genesis of Jenkins's plays is based in oral histories; however, they are not delineated solely by historical event or the words of the interviewees. She

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