Jessica Hagedorn

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Hagedorn in 1975

Jessica Tarahata Hagedorn (born 1949) is a Filipino playwright, writer, poet, and multimedia performance artist.


  • …Research is always involved, to make sure details, language and atmosphere feel right. Then comes the hard work of a writer, which is the writing itself. One sentence leads to another and then another… You try to maintain focus and discipline, writing for as long as you can, everyday until you’re done with a draft. Then you go back and start revising and the mysterious creative process begins all over again. Each time you begin, you hopefully go deeper into your story and your characters and end up surprising yourself.
  • By saying that all my characters have a little bit of me in them, I mean that I try to be invested and empathetic in all my characters—whether they are principal or secondary, deeply flawed and not very “nice.” If you’re in tune with your story then the characters do come at you organically. There isn’t an order to how they might appear.
  • The work involved in writing a novel is completely solitary, unlike playwriting. And the struggle is often painful. There is no one to turn to but yourself. You confront your own demons in order to dig deep and come up with something risky and powerful. Playwriting is the exact opposite process for me because it's so collaborative. If you're blessed with a terrific cast, a visionary director, an innovative sound and design team, then your play has a ninety-nine percent chance of being realized in the best possible way. I think people forget -- even some of my most aware graduate students! -- that writing is hard work. Period.
  • Filipino writers who write in English should be at an advantage in terms of connecting with international readers, but the irony is that their work isn't really known to the rest of the world. As for me, writing in Tagalog has never been a real option. It's too complex. Just because I can speak the language (somewhat) doesn't mean that I can write in Tagalog with any eloquence or authority.
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