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How Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ investigation of the family drama led to ‘Appropriate’

The playwright shares how his desire to understand the genre created the Tony Award-nominated revival.

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (Credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

“What is American drama? What is drama? What is American about American drama?” playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins wondered more than a decade ago. 

In his research, the playwright stumbled on an explanation that resonated. “The American theater tradition is known within the context of the world [theater] tradition for having really nailed the family drama — that our greatest contribution to the canon, broadly speaking, is a deep dissection of family and how it relates to the social,” Jacobs-Jenkins explained. “The argument had to do with the fact that there’s this idea of America — this nation of immigrants — [where] people come and the only social unit they have is their family. And so everything is acted out on that network of people.”

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