Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

In his audacious and disarming plays, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins dismantles received ideas of race, history, and American culture.

Born in 1984 in Washington, D.C., Branden Jacobs-Jenkins has established a reputation as a versatile young playwright whose demanding and often disturbing works interrogate established notions of gender, race, history, and sexuality. His plays ricochet through time and space, leaping from a 19th-century Louisiana plantation (An Octoroon) to post-World War II Germany (War) to the Darwinian halls of a big Manhattan magazine (Gloria). In An Octoroon, first staged at the Soho Rep in 2014, Jacobs-Jenkins rewrites Dion Boucicault’s 1859 melodrama The Octoroon. The play is by turns admiring and critical of its source: modern dialogue exists in counterpoint with Boucicault’s nineteenth-century vernacular, resulting in a rich, strange, and wildly entertaining theatrical mélange. In Appropriate (2014), Jacobs-Jenkins sets up a seemingly familiar domestic drama (a group of warring family members uncover a secret about their beloved patriarch) only to shift into something dark and unexpectedly subversive. Jacobs-Jenkins is a graduate of New York University, Princeton University, and the Juilliard School, as well as the winner of a Fulbright Arts Grant and the 2014 Obie Award for Best New American Play (awarded jointly for An Octoroon and Appropriate).

I feel like a fog has lifted and that the writing I want to get done could--for the moment, at least--be less of a negotiation with my day-to-day life. I only wish everyone alive could get a phone call like the one I just received. I’ve never ever felt this confident, joyful, relieved, or encouraged on a Wednesday morning. BRANDEN JACOBS-JENKINS