BWW Interviews: Gruesome Playground Injuries' Jennifer Carpenter

BWW_Interview_Jennifer_Carpenter_Gruesome_Playground_Injuries_20010101This past week actress Jennifer Carpenter sat down with Broadwayworld to discuss her role in the Off-Broadway show, Gruesome Playground Injuries.

Carpenter is best known for her TV portrayal of "Debra Morgan" on Dexter, and has also graced the big screen as "Emily Rose" in The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and as "Angela Vidal" in Quarantine.

While these roles are to thank for establishing her career in Hollywood, they have also boxed her into the horror genre. It may be becuase of this that she is lesser known for her numerous turns on the stage, including Broadway's The Crucible, and work for LCT, Actors Theatre Of Louisville, and The O'Neill Playwrights Conference. But after eight years away from theater, she has returned to play the role of "Kayleen" in Second Stage Theater's Gruesome Playground Injuries, a choice that allows audiences to see her in a new light. 

The show charts two lives, using scars, injuries and calamities as the mile markers. The play explores why people hurt themselves to gain another's love, and the cumulative effect of such damage, of such demands.

The role of Kayleen is a modern and agressive one, and certainly an interesting choice for a return to theater. BWW chatted with Carpenter about this decision as well as her feelings on New York, and her hopes for the future. 

BWW: What motivated you to get involved with Gruesome Playground Injuries?

Well, I had been sort of craving a play. I hadn't done one in eight years so I think that I was kind of a little afraid to go back to the stage since I had been away for so long. I had done a revival last time I was here so I was interested in doing a new play and my agent introduced me to Rajiv Joseph's writing and said that there was going to be a reading at Second Stage Theater. So I flew myself in to read with Pablo [Schreiber] and it was just like... music. It just sounded good, all of it, so I dove in. And was immediately terrified.

Kayleen and Doug are quite extreme in some aspects. Do you feel that they are still identifiable characters?

I do, I think that their issues are hightened, more than most people, and certainly about certain things, but I believe that that is what is so great about the play. It is so poetic; it is funny because I thought that there would be more conversations with me about what the play was but the conversation that always seems to come up is that people see themselves in it. The relationship with a father or the relationship with an ex-boyfriend, people just see a part of themselves in it.

What do you think is the moral or main message of Gruesome Playground Injuries?

I don't know that I want to reduce it to that, but I think it is about timing. Timing with ones-self, finding when you are ready and open to let other people in. It is unfortunate, I mean I don't think that most people have to spend their entire life with their soul mate; they meet them at the stage in their life when they are ready to see them. But unfortunately these two [Kayleen and Doug] meet at age eight. So they have to go through all of these growing pains together.

You portray Kayleen through several different ages in her life. Which one is your favorite?

The play is exhausting; it feels like getting punched in the gut every time. In a really good way mind you, but still. I think it is a relief that we get to start at eight. Because you get to go on and play first. I really enjoy eight, but once we begin I do enjoy the rest as much as eight. But it is nice to start the show with a sense of play.

Second Stage Theater is a really modern space. Was it difficult learning how to set up your own scenes?

The transitions are really helpful for me, they are this quiet moment where you can really take your scene partner in. I don't know how Pablo uses his time, but I sort of jump the gap; a lot of the work of this play has been writing your character's history and that's what I do in those moments, I write my character's history. Whatever I imagine happened during those five-year gaps I play them out in my mind while I look at my scene partner and it helps me sort of prepare for the next scene.

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