For playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger, Southern gothic literature isn’t just a prose style — it’s a way of living in the world. While growing up in Tallahassee, the genre became enmeshed with her understanding of narrative and character.
“For a while I didn’t know anyone else wrote literature other than Southern writers,” she says, while on break from teaching a playwriting course at the University of the Arts. “Southern gothic tales are horrifying for children, but you have to remember that I come from the deep South, which takes the Bible literally — and the Bible’s pretty terrifying. So it’s not as much of a leap for Southern children.”
And there is certainly plenty of Flannery O’Connor-esque horror to be found in “The Terrible Girls,” Goldfinger’s darkly comic tale of a roadside diner’s murderous waitstaff. Last year, the play was a local hit. It was nominated for a Barrymore Award for Outstanding New Play.
In 2012, Goldfinger is taking a more naturalistic approach to her macabre. “Slip/Shot,” now onstage at the Adrienne, is a period piece set in 1960s Florida, where racial tensions are at fever pitch (not much has changed, apparently). Based on newspaper accounts from the period, the narrative centers on the tragic shooting of an innocent African-American man.
Does that sound more contemporary than period? For Goldfinger, the parallels are completely unintentional.
“The Trayvon Martin tragedy didn’t become national news until after we began rehearsals. It was shocking, horrifying and did lead us to wonder what people would bring with them to this play,” explains Goldfinger. “We’re hoping it will open up the conversation. Maybe we’ll start a conversation about how legacy influences our actions.”