Artist of the Week: From the Page to the Stage, DiNucci Writes, Produces and Directs Her Own Play


By Kate Button, Arts Writer, Copy Editor


Jillian DiNucci, a sophomore at the University of Utah and student in the Actor Training Program, has now written and produced her own play. Originally hailing from Boise, Idaho, she first got her start with a playwriting program at the age of 13. Now, after receiving a grant, DiNucci has been given the opportunity to showcase her works to the U as she writes and directs her own play. 


The Background

When DiNucci first came to the U, she was struck by the political leanings of the state. “I came to the U from a really red state, and I came to the U and it was another really red state — very conservative — and so I felt the ripples of that in my theatre department. I just got really tired of complaining about it, so I figured I might as well do something about it.” As she began to settle into life at the U, DiNucci said, “I personally found that myself and a lot of my queer friends really flourished in the last few years we’ve been here, so I wanted to make a piece of art that can celebrate that.” 

From her playwriting program in Idaho, DiNucci gained confidence as a writer, so when she came to college, the idea of writing her own play wasn’t as intimidating. She had also previously produced plays and directed before, but now, since coming to the U, DiNucci has realized “People here are going to give me money for making art, and that’s not really common anywhere else, so I figured I might as well do it now.” 

In addition to her prior experiences with producing and directing, DiNucci is also an experienced actor. She has been a part of the U’s productions of “Macbeth” and “Hippolyta,” and this background of acting has helped to inform her directing. “Being trained as an actor, I know how actors think, and how they work, and I can use that skill to direct and push them in a direction that I think is harder, but in the end will be more successful,” DiNucci said. 

Since receiving the grant, “It was kind of a really big realization that I could actually do this, and it could be something I’m proud of. You can make art for free, but it’s really hard,” DiNucci said. Having the grant influenced the creation of the play as it allowed DiNucci to explore more options with playwriting and directing, “It allowed me to write scenes that are really technically much harder than I would have been able to do, and it made me put no bounds on what I wanted to create.

“And then I was able to get amazing minds for our designers and our stage management team — which I wouldn’t have been able to do without money — so that has really elevated it to a place that I’m really excited about, that I haven’t had with any art that I have made before,” DiNucci said. 


The Process

In her play, DiNucci has created “a piece that highlights female queer relationships during the American AIDS crisis, and it’s about a young girl named Eve and her journey in coming out to a really small midwestern town, and how that affects her, her mother and her girlfriend.” As for the inspiration for the play, DiNucci said, “I took a bunch of literary ideas that are from traditional western texts and tried to flip them on their heads in a sense. These old metaphors no longer belong to white, straight, cis men, and we can give the same metaphors the same great meaning if we apply them to people of color, minorities, women and queer people.”

DiNucci first began writing this play in Jan. 2019, and after re-working her play to revolve around three core images and testing out six different endings, DiNucci has realized that “there’s a lot of words in theatre, and if we strip it back to just images, it can be just as powerful. And it is still morphing, it feels more like a living organism than a solid text because we keep growing with it and changing it, and the show keeps changing, and that’s changing everything, so that’s been really interesting to see. It feels like it started out as a baby, and now it’s like a toddler.” 

As for balancing the creation of the play, being a student and working, DiNucci simply stated that “It has been hard but it’s really all about finding time to take care of myself because how can I expect someone to take care of my art if I can’t take care of myself?” Yet, despite the difficulty, “I wouldn’t do anything else. I think that a lot of the best art comes out of not the easiest situations because of the pressure, which has been a huge motivator, and thankfully my grades haven’t slipped,” DiNucci said. Even with the craziness of creating this one-piece, she already plans on writing another play — one that might be a horror show, just to try out something new.


The Production

As for the performances of DiNucci’s play, you can catch her work on Feb. 7 and 8 in Studio 115 of PAB, 240 S 1500 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84112. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., but the doors will open at 7:00 so that audience members can first walk through an art gallery featuring local queer artists. 

The show is free, but they will be asking for donations to the Utah Pride Center and the Utah AIDS Foundation. 

Additionally, DiNucci wanted to be clear: “It’s not a show that’s supposed to just be for queer people, or women or liberals, I really want to stress that this is just a show that happens to be about that, but it’s about relationships — and everyone can relate to that.” DiNucci is incredibly grateful to her department that has allowed her to create her own work, and she believes that “we need more art that promotes positive messages but also change,” and she hopes that her play can help to accomplish this goal. 

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