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A Closer Look: MJ Kaufman

Playwrights’ Corner
MJ Kaufman

After hearing this play in a Roundtable, I'm really looking forward to hearing it again during your Studio Retreat. What are you looking forward to the most?

I'm excited to explore the shifts between time periods, and how characters transition between playing a contemporary queer person and a medieval solider. We're not sure yet how we're going to facilitate these shifts, but we may be doing a lot of it with music, which I'm excited to play with. 

As you bounce back and forth between the two locations in this play, rural country homes and Medieval France, you do it with such ease and create such compelling characters. What inspired you to write this play?

I was thinking about the question of trans ancestors. We know that there have always been people like us, but how do we find them in history? Since gender is so dependent on context, it becomes hard to understand the choices people make about gender identity and expression across time periods. Could Joan of Arc be a trans ancestor? Some historians think she dressed as a man simply for safety. Others think she dressed as a man because she was part of a cult of witches. I wanted to explore the question of her gender nonconformitity in the past, through the eyes of a contemporary trans person looking for lineage. I also wanted to investigate the tension between wanting trans ancestors and the impossiblity of ever identifying them  for sure. 

Joan of Arc is mentioned throughout the play. Do you remember when you first heard her story?

Nope! I've heard it for so long I can't remember the first time. Though this was in part prompted by a Joan of Arc bake-off I got from Paula Vogel. 

I'm always fascinated by a writer's process. What does a perfect day in the land of writing a play look like for you?

It is best when I get eight hours of sleep! I like to write in the morning. I like to go running first. If I had my druthers I'd never have to look at email again, and I would just get to read, write, and play outside all day. At night I like to go see theater and dance.