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Jason Grote

Jason Grote is a writer for film, stage, and television. His plays include 1001; Civilization (all you can eat); Shostakovich, or Silence; Maria/Stuart; and Hamilton Township. His devised theatre work includes adapting the script for En Garde Arts' Basetrack (2014 BAM Next Wave Festival and national tour, NYT Top Ten of 2014); David Levine's HABIT (PS122, Luminato Festival, Watermill Center, 2013 OBIE Award), and Radiohole's Tarzana (Mass Live Arts Festival, The Performing Garage). Film and television work includes "Mad Men", "Hannibal," and "Smash," and a screen adaptation of John Cheever's short story "Goodbye, My Brother". He is currently a writer-producer on Jeremy Renner’s “Knightfall,” upcoming on History. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and American Theater. He teaches writing at UC San Diego and Primary Stages' ESPA, and is an alumnus of New Dramatists.

Since 2011, I have been writing and researching a play about the composer Dmitry Shostakovich. While he is a world-renowned composer, only the general outlines of his story are known, and much of that is mired in confusion and misinformation. In addition, like any American, I grew up with a lifetime's worth of misunderstandings and misrepresentations of Russia as a nation, culture, and people. Thanks to the Likachev Foundation, I was offered  precedented access to archives, private museums, and individuals who knew Shostakovich and his family. In addition - and, perhaps, even more importantly - I engaged in the fabric of everyday life in St. Petersburg, meeting ordinary Russians, eating at restaurants, visiting museums, attending performances, taking subways and taxis, even, at one point, visiting Moscow, where I went to Novedevichy Cemetery and paid tribute to the grave sites of Shostakovich, his wife Nina, and countless other great Russians. This experience will add a level of verisimilitude that will be invaluable to the eventual play, and to helping English-speaking audiences understand this great artist. Most of all, I got to see
firsthand the joy and reverence with which Russians treat their culture. When I first discovered that Shostakovich wrote his Seventh Symphony to provide "music instead of boots, music instead of bread, music instead of ordinance" to the beleaguered Soviet army, I thought it was exceptional. But after two weeks in Russia, I found that, to a Russian, music is as important as any one of those things, maybe even more. This experience will prove invaluable to the development of the play.