James Meneses is a Chilean Chinese playwright and member of the Dramatist’s Guild and the TheaterMaker’s Studio led by Ken Davenport. James is also an original member of the Greenhouse Ensemble, a theater company committed to offering opportunities for a wide range of voices and independent artists in New York City. As a writer, he explores worlds of science fiction like HERE IS GONE, a story about an authoritarian state where dreaming is against the law. His characters can represent the voiceless and the outcast like in SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND OPEN YOUR EYES a story of a female football player navigating the role of a caregiver for her autistic sister. His plays CROSS FROM ROME, DREAM FRAGMENTATION, and WHILE YOU WAIT have been produced in NYC by the Greenhouse Ensemble. He has performed on stage in SUNSHINE QUEST at the Wild Project, 44TH AND 9TH written by Christy Hall (I am Not Okay with This) and has acted alongside Judith Roberts (Orange is the New Black) and Margaret Reed (Seinfeld) in the comedy film, REUNION.
On stage after The Russian Arts Theater production of "Three Sisters"
at the Greenhouse Ensemble's screening of "Lifestyle Content"
On set with Margaret Reed, Judith Roberts and Ruya Koman
When I was a kid, I told stories alone in my room for hours at a time. The players were action figures, stuffed animals, Legos, and there weren't many rules, just free-flowing chaos. Years later in architecture school the conflict grew between nurturing and stagnating the creative impulse within a set of guidelines, a structure. One very late night working on a project at the studio, this thought came up - If there is a center between chaos and order, then where could it be? Where forms grow without forcing or wanting something? When it’s grounded, yet soars beyond into a new doorway of imagination? With architecture, this center felt elusive, or maybe this sense of a perfect balance was just an impossible idea.
Across the street from the studio was the college auditorium where the drama club rehearsed and performed. I joined my senior year, acted in two plays, and the following year attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. During an early exercise called "Slice of life," while my classmates were in their "own room" just simply being themselves, I was trying to be a character. There was no script but I had this idea that it would be easier to be something, someone, anyone but myself. Maybe I was still trying to escape being the shy kid, who felt uncomfortable in social settings and would much rather be alone telling stories with Legos. After the first year of training I received a letter informing me I was not invited back for year 2. And they were right. How could I be a character, if I was too afraid to simply be myself first? I was skipping a step. I needed a foundation.
I would journey on to HB Studio and take acting classes with Austin Pendleton and Michael Beckett. During this time I became a member of a NYC theater group, called the Greenhouse Ensemble. In one project, we experimented with dance, movement and dramatic writing to ask, "how do you fill absence with meaning?" and it became my first opportunity to write for theater. Since then, I’ve studied playwriting with Kim Sharp, Julie McKee, and Lia Romeo, and meet with the Greenhouse Ensemble Writer's Group, where I began realizing that any idea, good or bad starts on the surface, and takes time, patience, and risk to shed layers, and create something specific, surprising, and moving. Writing is a way of sculpting a question I don't know the answer to and my inner child who once told stories with Legos, has bargained to keep the creative hunch somewhat imperfect and reckless till the very end.