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JAWing with Dominic

Dominic Finocchiaro

Photo by Leah Nash

This summer Dominic Finocchiaro ’11 will present his new play, complex, at Portland’s JAW: A Playwrights Festival. He was one of four playwrights—chosen from more than 200 submissions worldwide—who will collaborate with theatre professionals from across the country before presenting their works in staged, public readings.

Sponsored by Portland Center Stage, the two-week JAW (short for Just Add Water) festival, spotlights new works selected through a blind submission process. complex will be presented at 4 p.m. on Friday, July 26, at the Armory. The story takes place a big city apartment complex where residents are dying in strange and gruesome ways. One tenant sets out to stop the bloodshed and mayhem.

“I have always been fascinated by high-rise apartments and the nuts-and-bolts of urban living,” Dominic explains. “There is something almost nightmarish about thousands of residents living one on top of another in identical little boxes. The play deals with the alienation and disconnection inherent in urban life; about how terrifying it can be to search for connection in a disconnected word.”

After graduating from Reed, Dominic spent the 2011–12 season as a dramaturgy and literary management intern at the Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, where his plays iPorn, or what you crave and That Noise were produced. He began writing complex while sitting in his cubicle at Actors Theatre.

Dominic has been a busy guy and credits Reed professors for instilling the high standards that fostered his work ethic. After his internship, he moved to New York and studied at the New School for Drama and the Pataphysics Playwriting Workshops at the Flea Theatre. He developed and produced plays with Ugly Rhino Productions and the Amoralists theatre companies. That Noise was given a staged reading as part of the Hearth Gods performance series in the East Village. Sunday’s Clown, a short play he wrote, was produced for Communal Spaces, a festival of site-specific work in community gardens around Manhattan. This July, in addition to presenting complex at JAW, Dominic’s play The Chicken Situation will be featured in the Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival at New York’s Clurman Theatre.

Dominic has show business in his DNA, growing up in a world where the arts were not only fostered, but also considered central to existence. His father, Anthony Finocchiaro, was an actor, and his great grandfather was a headliner in the Ziegfeld Follies. His maternal grandmother was Bonita Granville, who played Nancy Drew in movies of the 1930s and was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in These Three. Granville’s husband (and Dominic’s grandfather) was Jack Wrather, who produced such television series as The Lone Ranger and Lassie.

Dominic’s horizons were expanded in the Reed theatre department where he was introduced to friends and collaborators that he continues to work with. In addition to learning all aspects of the theatre by doing, he gained a lifelong friend and mentor is Kate Bredeson [theatre 2009–].

“After my mom, Kate’s the first person I email whenever I get a new production or other good news!” Dominic says. “She has really been a godsend, and I wouldn’t be where I am without her.” Dominic says that Reed changed his life and helped him become the person he is today. While he learned many things, perhaps paramount was the emphasis placed on rigor of thought.

“Reed didn’t teach me to be a good playwright or good theatre-maker,” he explains, “but to be a good thinker—to be an analytical and engaged participant in the world of ideas.”

Dominic lives in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwich where he is at work on two full-length plays. This fall he will continue his MFA studies at Columbia University.

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