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J.J. Pyle Explains How to Find a Husband…Or Not


In a unique coming of (middle) age story, J.J. Pyle tells How to Find a Husband in 37 Years or Longer. The playwright-performer has appeared at multiple venues around town with her unique show. In it, she uses her life experience as lessons, even though “they are more of a ‘what not to do.’”

The audience roots for Pyle as she misses out on a big trip and finds herself unexpectedly home for Christmas with her father in Indiana. As she talks to him about his problems, she’s reminded of her own failed relationships and is surprised at how her life mirrors his.

We asked Pyle to tell us about creating her show and where it goes from here.


How would you describe How to Find a Husband in 37 Years or Longer?

It’s a look at family cycles, and psychological patterns of relationships, that thing where we perhaps keep dating the wrong people because we are trying to “fix” that first broken relationship we had with a parent.


The show’s title makes it sound like a straightforward concept, but your show is quite complex, with a personal storyline that overlaps with your father’s. What made you decide to tell your story this way?

I thought I had two scripts. One was a memoir (esque) story about my failed relationships. I wanted to explore the juxtaposition between the overwhelming ecstasy of falling in love and the soul-crushing despair of heartbreak—and maybe help others through it. The other was a story about my father, a Pentecostal Christian, getting busted growing marijuana at the age of 64. I went on an actors/writers retreat in Costa Rica and was having excerpts from both ideas read out loud and had a sudden stabbing realization that this is the same script and that I have to play my own father.


Who helped shape the show? Do you have a mentor?

I wrote much of this show in a class with comedian Judy Gold. She is so helpful in getting a writer to write from a deeper, darker, more truthful, vulnerable place and helping them do it with humor. John Leguizamo’s solo work is something I have studied and stolen a few things from. I loved his moving subway videos behind him, which inspired my moving truck videos when I’m driving with Dad. I like how he tells stories of his parents and his loves and his passions and does it in a way that includes and even educates his audience. His work has been an inspiration for me.

My main teacher/mentor is David Gideon. Studying with him is where I really found my grounding as an actor and when I finally accepted it as my purpose. And of course, my team, Mark Cirnigliaro (director), Sloane Fischer (Stage Manager) and Ali Cronin (Projections). Each was pivotal in the collaboration of this show. I love that part of the process when you add rehearsal and design and everything suddenly is getting shaped and a living breathing thing starts to reveal itself.


What was the workshop process for this show?

I co-founded a group called Solo Heroes with Ivy Eisenberg. We met in a class at ESPA (New York’s Einhorn School for the Performing Arts) at Primary Stages taught by comedian, Judy Gold. We realized we needed an outlet and an audience to test out our material. We took submissions, booked theaters, cast other people with solo shows in progress. We would perform 10-20 minute sections to see how our new writing was landing on an audience. I also workshopped this show with InViolet Theatre Company in New York City, where I’m a member.


What role does writing play in your career?

This is my first full script. I have two more right behind it. I am currently working on, Ooops, I’m an Asshole, the Life and Times of Jennifer Wynne Reeves, Artist is another solo show, not autobiographical this time, but something I’m adapting from the artist’s life and work and Facebook Page. And a full-length ensemble play called Don’t Ruin It For Me. I still consider myself an actor who writes. But that could shift any day now.


What has been your favorite acting role?

I have two. First, Chrissy in David Rabe’s In the Boom Boom Room. From my first read of this play (in an early acting class) I knew I had to play this character. I immediately identified with her. I eventually did a production of it at the 2nd Stage in Los Angeles. And then, Matchgirl in Time’s Scream and Hurry by Paul Hoan Zeidler. This is the play that started my love of solo work and it moved me to New York City. It’s about a woman who is giving a seminar at an adult entertainment expo about how she got into the business of being a dominatrix. We did two productions at the Elephant Studio in LA and then at the Cherry Lane in NYC.


Anything else you’d like to share?

We’re doing four shows in the East to Edinburgh Festival at 59E59 in New York City in July. And then we’re at TheSpace@Surgeons Hall-Haldane theater for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.


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Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Theatre West.

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