Jennifer Petticolas - Playwright, Actress, Director, Producer
Jennifer Lipford Petticolas (playwright/performer/director/lyricist) is a retired educator. She is native of Lynchburg, Virginia. She graduated of Dunbar High School in Lynchburg, Virginia and completed her undergraduate work at Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina. She earned a Master’s degree in English Education and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Lynchburg College.
Her performances include Amen’s Corner, Cabaret, The Fantasticks, Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Colored Museum, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf, Dream Girls, Pretty Fire, How I Got Over, Divas and Gents and Her Story.
She directed Mahalia, Fences, The Delany Sisters, and A Star Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hole in Heaven, Raisin in the Sun, The Ray Charles Revue, I Know the Secret, Second Hand Furniture Store, Bits and Pieces, and As I Stood at the Gate.
The following are plays she has written: Still Groovin’, The Park Bench, Little Black Dress, A Fried Bologna Kinda Day, I Know the Secret, Black Life Matters, Greener Pastures, Remnants of Her Sins, He Gave Me Flowers, As I Stood at the Gate (adapted from a novel of the same title by David Woulf), Divas and Gents, Second Hand Furniture Store, Take Me Back.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Jennifer did set design and playbill design when she was a student at Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina. She became interested in playwriting in 1974, when she volunteered to write a play for the faculty at Francis Scott Key Middle School in Baltimore Maryland.
How does your personal story/background influence your work?
Jennifer’s personal stories, as well as everyone else’s personal stories, influence Jennifer’s work. Her friends often tell others “be careful what you say to her because you might hear it again on stage.” Theatre is a reflection of life. Jennifer has no subject matter that she writes about. She wants people to learn from her plays. She writes about history, social injustices, the problems of growing old, social issues. If it interests her, she writes about it.
Which of your works are you most proud of?
Jennifer is most proud of her play “Little Black Dress”. This play is based on a true story about a young lady, Brittney Kittrell, who committed suicide on the campus of George Mason University. Kim Kittrell, the mother of Brittney, came to Jennifer to ask if she could help her get the message out that there is help for depression. Before this play was performed, a read through of the play was done for some people from Lynchburg Mental Health, Centra Health, and the Crisis Center. After the debut of this play in the ballroom of the Holiday Inn Downtown, Jennifer was asked to do two performances at E. C. Glass High School. The play was also performed as a part of the D.C. Black Theatre Festival, at Howard University, Cross Roads Mental Health in Farmville, Virginia, and twice for Henrico Mental Health in Henrico, Virginia.
What is the hardest part about being a professional artist?
There are several things that make trying to be a professional artist difficult. Not having a place to call home would be the first thing. Not having a home means not having a practice space. Financing is another difficulty. Jennifer usually pays for everything because she is not connected to an established organization. Building and audience is also a difficulty because Jennifer is not connected to an established organization; it takes money to advertise; it takes consistency to build an audience.
What artists inspire you?
When looking for inspiration, Jennifer looks at the works of August Wilson.
What advice would you give aspiring artists who come from minority of under-represented groups?
Jennifer would advise any aspiring artist to believe in herself/himself; read the works of other established playwrights; go to New York and see some plays on Broadway; take classes or workshops; connect with other people with similar interests as yours, surround yourself with good people who believe in you but who will tell you when you are going wrong.