NET/TEN Shareback: Rachel Jendrzejewski - Writers as Ensembles

2014 Spring Travel Grant Recipient

Rachel Jendrzejewski (Minneapolis, MN) met with fellow playwrights, Karen Cellini and Virginia Grise, for a weeklong residency to explore the prospect of collaborating on a new work investigating the political landscape of women’s bodies, with a focus on abortion.


Rachel provided NET with the narrative below and a helpful Retreat Planning Kit for writers, ensembles, and anyone else looking to spend some quality time with other artists. Please share about your own retreat experiences and tips in the comments section below.

Writers As Ensembles
By Rachel Jendrzejewski

This past June-into-July, I spent a week dreaming and scheming in the Berkshires with two other writers, Karen Cellini and Virginia (Vicki) Grise.

Prior to this trip, I had only met the two of them a few times in passing. Karen lives there, in Western Mass; Vicki lives in Brooklyn; I live in Minneapolis. Months ago, Karen reached out to us with an intuition that we could work well together and an invitation to try: she wondered if we might want to collaborate with her on a new play about the female body as political landscape, with a focus on abortion. The spark for this project had come from a retired doctor friend who spent much of his career providing abortions at Planned Parenthood. He had given Karen a thick binder of his reflections and stories for creative use, which she shared with us. We were intrigued, but the subject was tough; and while all three of us regularly collaborate with other kinds of artists, none of us had ever banded together with fellow writers in quite this way. We decided that we should find a way to gather in person to explore if and how to proceed.

Fast forward in time: Thanks to support from NET, we convened at Karen’s home in the Berkshires for a residency to get to know each other better and investigate how we writers might become an ensemble. It was a beautiful and immensely productive week, and I’m delighted to report that we plan to keep working together!

To share our process in a form that could be useful to others, we have put together a Retreat Planning Kit inspired by our time together. It includes a checklist, schedule template with suggested activities, plus some generative exercises that can be easily tailored to your group. While this document was created especially with new ensembles of writers in mind, we hope it will be useful and adaptable for ensembles of all varieties, emerging and established, who could use some inspiration in planning a week-long artistic retreat.

Click here to download the Writers as Ensembles: Retreat Planning Kit





Photos: (clockwise from top left) Celebrating Vicki’s birthday and the start of our retreat at our first dinner together; Karen at work in one of our sessions; a table of writing prompts; and the three of us together at Tanglewood.


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Monday, February 9, 2015

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