Meet the playwright of Jump!

Posted on May 21, 2019

Get to know Charly Evon Simpson, the playwright of the whimsical and heart-healing new play, Jump.

Where are you from and how did you come to playwriting?

I was born in Queens, New York and grew up mostly in Northern New Jersey. I spent much of my childhood reading and writing. And then in high school, I did a lot of theatre. My advisor in high school suggested I think about going to Brown University to work with Paula Vogel. I don't even think I had written a play or thought about writing a play before that. But I guess some part of me listened because I did end up going to Brown. And I did end up taking a class with Paula Vogel. It was in college that I realized that playwriting allowed me to connect two of my loves: writing and theater.

How did you come to the idea for Jump?  

A few years ago I came across an article called “Jumpers” in The New Yorker. It was written by Tad Friend in 2003 and focused on how the Golden Gate Bridge was a place where many decided to end (or try to end) their lives. The article fascinated me and I kept it open on my browser tabs for months. I didn’t know why I kept it there but I did, knowing that I had to do something with it at some point. Meanwhile, I tried writing a new play. The play didn’t work, but it had two characters I loved—Fay and Hopkins. I kept them in the back of my head—maybe they’d find a new home in a new play. In the fall of 2016, I had a week up at SPACE on Ryder Farm, a wonderful nonprofit residency program in Brewster, NY, and I knew I wanted to write a new play. I looked at my browser and saw the “Jumpers” article. I then remembered Fay and Hopkins. And five days later, I had about 75% of the play. In that time, the play gained Judy and Dad, rounding out Fay’s family. It became a play about falling vapes and Chinese food, about Converse and kitten heels. It became a play about a bridge, about connection, about grief.

Jump is a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere, meaning it is getting 4 productions around the county in a single year. What has it been like being a part of all of these different productions? 

It is really quite beautiful and a privilege to see different creative teams create Jump. Every interpretation has been slightly different and therefore I have been able to learn a tremendous amount about the play. 

Jump was recently became the very first David Goldman Fund for New Plays. What does this award mean for you? 

I am touched that David Goldman and NNPN would honor Jump in this way. NNPN has been such a supportive organization and I am well aware that Jump would not be where it is today without their support. 

You'll be spending some time in Atlanta over the next month. Is there anything you are looking forward to doing? 

I enjoy getting to spend time in new cities and learn some of their ins and outs. I hope to visit a few museums and such, but I also just hope to get an overall sense of the city.