An Anonymous Contributor at the Edmonton Fringe Festival

An Anonymous Contributor

The Academy at King Edward Park (8525 101 street) August 13, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21
More information:

Photo used with permission from Adriana Jones

Photo used with permission from Adriana Jones

An interview with Adriana Jones.

Describe your show in five words.

Intimate, Funny, Poignant, Smart, and Surprising.

Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?

She’s the most prolific writer you’ve never heard of. She’s written hundreds of papers, but her name won’t be found on a single one. At turns darkly comic and piercingly vulnerable, An Anonymous Contributor is a richly imagined journey into the shadowy and morally ambiguous world of an academic ghostwriter.

A fringe show about academic ghostwriting… interesting combination! How did you come up with the idea for An Anonymous Contributor?

I was thinking a lot about all of the unpaid work there is for artists and creative people in New York, and how difficult it is to navigate this landscape on top of the massive student loans that many of my peers are contending with. It’s not a great system, to say the least, and I was very interested in investigating what room there is to maneuver and fight for change and to what degree we’re all complicit. I was brainstorming ways to incorporate these ideas into a play, when I re-encountered an article about academic ghostwriting that I’d read a few years ago. In it, an academic ghostwriter comes out and talks about what led him to pursue ghostwriting and why it’s become such a booming industry. What immediately struck me about the article was that it was eerily relatable; I could see how if a few circumstances in my life had been different, I might have embarked on a similar path to that of the author. That was when it dawned on me that academic ghostwriting could be a wonderful framework for all the ideas I was playing with.

Why is this story and it’s ‘peak into the shadowy world of academic ghostwriting’ important for you to tell and for audiences to see?

From an audience perspective, I think the show is really current and investigates some hotly contested issues from an unconventional angle. Whether you’re a student, teacher, graduate, unpaid intern, or parent – you have a stake in this story. The world of academic ghostwriting is less isolated than you would think, and the success of the field has far-reaching implications that likely affect you – there just aren’t many people talking about it. As a performer/writer, this show speaks to a lot of my deepest fears and insecurities, both about myself as an artist and the world I’m living in, and there’s something simultaneously fulfilling and terrifying about sharing and confronting those fears in front of an audience. I’ve found myself having passionate conversations with audience members after past performances, which has been really rewarding, and affirms my sense that I’ve found something worthwhile with this story.

What were some of the interesting things you found out while researching this show that audiences might not be aware of?

One of the things that surprised me was just how out in the open the industry is- if you google “academic ghostwriting” or “ghostwriter for paper” you’ll find tons of sites with pricing menus, customer testimonials – there was even one site that had bios for the ghostwriters they had on staff. I was also surprised by some of what you can buy from these sites; dissertations seem to be a top selling item. I wonder how students manage to meet with their advisor and defend a dissertation they didn’t write – there’s something very wrong if that can fly under the radar. There’s also some interesting specialization that happens: there’s apparently a whole industry around ghosting college admissions essays. Not to mention the crazy article I found about a group of adjunct professors who started ghosting papers as a side job…

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?

It’s short and sweet (just under an hour) but packs a punch. Even though this is a show that lives in an academic world, you don’t need to be in academia to connect with it; there’s a simple story with a strong emotional core running underneath all the ghostwriting mischief.

Bonus question: Any names you want to drop who have been involved in your show (Edmonton arts people or otherwise)?

One of the first people to see an excerpt was Lance Horne, who is an Emmy-nominated composer/lyricist/performer, and he was the first to approach me and say that I was onto something. He curates a series called “Live from Gramercy Park” at The Players Club in New York City and invited me to perform an excerpt of the show there, which was an amazing experience and meant a lot to me. Cheryl King co-produced the latest run at her space Stage Left Studio in NYC this past June and also hosted an earlier run-I’m really grateful for her belief in me and the show. I’ve also been fortunate to work with two extremely talented directors – Christine Zagrobelny for the first production of the show (she works a lot in the NY indie community at places like The Brick and Flux Theater Ensemble and is one of my favorite people) and Patrice Miller this time around (she’s a director/choreographer with a few Canadian connections who’s extremely active in the indie theater world. She does a lot of experimental work at NY venues like La Mama, HERE Arts Center, and the Brooklyn Museum.)

The 34th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 13 – 23. Get your tickets at starting August 4.

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