eagle rock is not an example of urban blight! it's a totally flourishing diverse community with rising real estate values, great schools and parks, and a fantastic small business community. come over some time.
By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
"We had performance salons in this house," Haley adds. "Making theater in our house the whole time. I think that's an unusual first three years for someone in L.A. I was interested in TV, but I was not running around hunting down that dream."
Two years after arriving here, Haley's play about Internet gaming, Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, was selected for production at the prestigious Actors Theatre of Louisville (Ky.) Humana Festival of New Plays (it eventually was produced here at Sacred Fools). That placed her on the national radar, opening doors to subsequent opportunities — leading eventually to the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for The Nether, awarded to promising female playwrights, and its $25,000 prize, which allowed Haley to take early retirement from her day job in web design.
It was Center Theatre Group's literary manager, Pier Carlo Talenti, who submitted The Nether for the Blackburn. Haley says he neglected to tell her that he'd done so; she only learned she'd been entered when she won.
Talenti invited Haley into a CTG playwriting group after reading The Nether. "She's very smart but in a way unguarded," he explains. "And she has forthright questions about her own work."
He adds, "Jennifer may be an emerging playwright, but she's not an emerging woman. She's been in the trenches."
She now shares an Eagle Rock apartment with Lover Boy — a cat, so named because of the way he sprawls under her sheets in the winter, with his head on her pillow. Eagle Rock's dusty heat and urban blight don't trouble her. Together, she and Lover Boy gaze from their patio upon the majestic beauty of the San Gabriel Mountains and regard themselves lucky to be here.
Haley says she never stayed anywhere for the sake of a relationship — even a human one. Work and career always came first. These days, with the exception of a "fun and [emotionally] unencumbered" guy who lives in Connecticut, she hasn't been dating much.
"The flip side," she says, "is I have a lot of time to focus on my career and my work."
With tag-team agents at CAA on both coasts, Haley now is being sent out on meetings for television, "usually with a gatekeeper, and if they like me, they send me to showrunners" — the head writer — for pilots in contention for network series. "In May, they decide what shows they're doing, then they go to their dream teams."
Haley says she was ambivalent about TV for a long time because she wanted to figure out who she was as a writer on her own, not as part of a team.
"Playwriting offers autonomy," Haley explains. Yet with that autonomy, she discovered a certain isolation. When she was asked to start a writers' group at the Victory Theatre Center, which came to be known as the Los Angeles Playwrights Union, she was amazed by the need for "home" it fulfilled — a kind of social/professional club among people with common artistic interests. Today there's participation not only by L.A. scribes but also playwrights passing through from Chicago and New York.
Haley has been lucky enough to be offered commissions by several theaters, including South Coast Repertory, to write whatever kind of play she wants — commissions that generally come with $10,000 to $15,000, and for which the theater generally gets the first right of refusal to produce the play.
She's grateful for the opportunity but points out, "If they choose not to do it, that puts a stain on the play."
Either way, she adds, "It's really hard to make a living that way."
And making a living as a writer is Haley's bottom line. That's why she's now willing to take on television writing — it pays the bills.
Haley insists that won't be her. "I feel I have this nice body of work, and if I go into TV, I won't disappear from the theater community."
Michael Sargent writes sexually charged drawing-room comedies that often are tinged with ironic sadness. His genres range from porno and noir to soap opera. His plays often make idiosyncratic references to L.A. of years gone by, like the old Hollywood eateries Nickodell and Tick Tock Restaurant — "poetry that should resonate," he says, but has a hard time landing in the land of collective amnesia. The quality and concerns of his writings peg him as a latter-day Oscar Wilde, extravagant and witty, under the hallucinogenic influences of Sam Shepard and Christopher Durang.
Sargent is a dashing, tall figure, looking considerably younger than his 45 years, with flowing, shoulder-length hair, bushy eyebrows and penetrating brown eyes.
He grew up "all over Ohio," where his dad worked in a various steel mills. His parents moved to Ventura in 1977, when Sargent was still a teenager. His father wanted to make it as an actor.
The elder Sargent was very supportive of his son's writing, attending every play he put on, until his parents' marriage dissolved in the wash of his father's alcoholism. His dad returned to the Midwest, where he died about 12 years ago. (Sargent's mother now lives in San Luis Obispo with her new husband.)