Good afternoon, YouthMundees!
Our team at IVA is committed to achieving equity, inclusion and to ensuring that underrepresented voices are seen and amplified across the board. IVA stands in solidarity with Black communities across the globe, and we will not stop taking action until full freedom, respect, justice and social and human rights have been achieved. It’s only by learning, listening, improving, working and standing together that we can realize the positive change that we so desperately need to see in our country and the rest of the world.
At YouthMundus, we aim to not only be a platform for music, film and global change, but for the artists and global changemakers who create them. Our Artist Spotlight series aims to create a space for discovery of new, budding global talent, while simultaneously offering you an exclusive glimpse into their creative process. In this week’s edition, we’re extremely excited to feature the endlessly ambitious, Jack Damien, an aspiring playwright and writer based out of New York City!
When asked the origins behind his stage name, Jack Damien explained it was a combination of two monikers that he felt helped shape the essence of his own identity: his childhood nickname and the name of the birth father he never knew. Jack expounded further on the emergence of his artistic identity: “As pretentious artistry as it sounds, I still wanted my name to be an expression of who I am and the family I come from, despite not being the name I was born with. After adoption, I was raised with my younger brother in a small upstate New York town and through both public and private education institutions, I noticed we remained one of the few students of color.”
The privilege that his upbringing instilled and the constant struggle to find other students of color with whom he could identify and relate to, contributed to what Jack jokingly refers to as this overwhelming feeling that he was “raised in ‘The Sunken Place’ as a white child.” Though Jack acknowledges the exaggeration, considering his dark reference of Jordan Peele’s horror film, Get Out, in which “The Sunken Place” refers to the otherworldly state that black victims of hypnosis undergo prior their body being unwillingly yielded to white hosts, there was some validity behind the humor. Admittedly, it wasn’t until college that Jack began actively exploring the Black culture that he had been disconnected from his entire life. In fact, reconnecting with his identity is a theme Jack still continues to grapple with both in his work and in his life.
After recently graduating from Ithaca College with a BA in Theatre Studies and a minor in African Diaspora, Jack looks forward to a future of using his own background to help contextualize and support the struggles of other emerging artists grappling with similar hardships.
Can you give us some insight into your creative process?
In third grade I plagiarized the third Harry Potter book but replaced all the characters with Scooby Doo characters. This is probably a perfect way to describe my work. I love to mix genres and push the envelope.
Everything I do begins with a scene: I see an image in my mind and I expand from there. My brain moves really fast so I build the plot and the characters almost simultaneously, giving me quite the headache, but also allowing me to fine tune every detail.
As a writer, I’m greatly inspired and influenced by the work of magical realism of Tarell Alvin McCraney, the snappy satire of Ryan Murphy and the genre-bending of Joss Whedon and Jordan Peele. What inspired you to writing? What were the challenges you overcame in this?
I think having a very specific, unique story that is still able to entertain and remain relatable to a wide variety of people is very powerful and something I strive for in my work. There are a lot of important stories that aren’t being explored in-depth because of the almighty fear that it won’t appeal to mass audiences and I think that fear of the unfamiliar closes so many people off to things they might really resonate with.
What’s been the most rewarding part of being an artist for you? Do you have any advice for future artists?
After I began writing, I developed a love of what a story could do and the impact it can have. As I grew older, writing became almost therapeutic for me, it was a way to release everything going on in my mind. I began with short stories and ambitious novel ideas, these later evolved into potential screenplays. The only issue is a lot of the stories I want to tell aren’t being told right now. I’ve faced criticism towards some of my more controversial themes such as sexuality and drug use present in my writing. But I believe my work is an example of how art can begin conversations in an unexpected way. Being about to create for a living would probably be the most rewarding part of being an artist. For me being able maintain myself financially while also being able to create and produce my own ideas sounds like the best thing ever. My only advice is the basic advice I’ve received in my life which is to never give up on a dream no matter how hard it might get. There’s always a way. And find the places where you fit and break out of it.
Do you have any advice on how we can do our part in supporting emerging artists like you?
I think listening is a crucial part of support that is largely forgotten about in the allyship equation. Listen to black artists and the stories they have to tell. Give black writers the same attention and space to thrive that you give your favorite white writers. Lift up our work because of its quality, not just because you’re benefiting an artist of color. And finally: give credit where credit is due.
Be sure to follow Jack's Instagram to stay updated on all of her upcoming writing projects!
Thank you for your continuous support and kindness in this extraordinary times. Stay safe! Lots of love, #Team IVA
Interview by conducted & written by Veronica Velez