It’s Not a Documentary

Jamie Pachino is a Los Angeles based playwright, screenwriter and TV writer whose plays have won dozens ofjamie 2014 headshot awards and been produced and developed by such companies as Steppenwolf, Long Wharf, Hartford Stage, ACT, San Jose Rep, Florida Stage, Geva, Pasadena Playhouse and many more. Jamie has written features for DreamWorks, Disney, Lions Gate, and Walden Media, TV movies for Hallmark Hall of Fame, Hallmark Channel, Lifetime and Up, and TV series for USA, TNT and AMC networks. She is currently a writer/producer on NBC’s CHICAGO PD. Jamie is thrilled to be in Naples (where her mother snowbirds four months a year!) and especially at Gulfshore with her play OTHER THAN HONORABLE.

Many of my plays have been inspired by true stories. A woman who was determined to raise a prodigy daughter alone in 1920’s Spain, succeeded beyond her wildest dreams, then murdered her, inspired my play AURORA’S MOTIVE. The man who fell into a crevasse on Everest with the satellite phone on his body,then called home and spoke to his pregnant wife until the signal went out was a centerpiece of my play WAVING GOODBYE. The astrophysics professor who published a bestseller on how physics could prove the existence of God led me to my play SPLITTING INFINITY. Each time, I couldn’t shake the true story. The facts. And each time I faced the same dilemma as I embarked on writing the play: it’s not a documentary. As exceptional as those stories were, I wasn’t creating docudramas. I had to find a way to express what galvanized me in the first place, while populating my landscape with three-dimensional characters. People with blood pulsing through their veins, deep desires, complicated conflicts, and flaws. In other words: characters that might look nothing like the story that had inspired me but reflected their own emotional truth. It’s a lesson I learn over and over as a playwright: the facts are not the end of the story. The facts are only the beginning.

OTHER THAN HONORABLE took hold of me after I read an article on It was an oral history detailing the astronomical number of sexual assaults that occur in our U.S. military (19,000 in 2012; 26,000 in 2013 — the numbers are going up), and even more, about victims’ inability to get acknowledgement, counseling or justice in its aftermath, and the retaliation that keeps them from reporting the attacks in the first place. The story grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I needed to write the play. Yet here I was again with the challenge not to make it a documentary, but instead find the full-blooded, messy people who needed things from each other, screwed up, shut down when they should step up, and ran away from their lives. A story that wouldn’t reflect any one incident, but use a fictional woman to encompass the unfairness, the trauma, and the courage it takes to tell one’s own story, out loud.

Because audiences don’t come to the theatre for diatribes or debates.They come for humans and humanity, a chance to bear witness to the struggle for validation, connection, meaning. The facts behind OTHER THAN HONORABLE and stories like it are extraordinary, but my struggle as a playwright is often to find the emotional truth behind the facts and offer the audience an experience they can’t find in a newspaper, on the evening news, or on social media. To make an audience ache for the women and men who have been attacked and silenced and irrevocably changed, the way I ached when I first read the article.

This is the gift of a workshop and reading the New Works Festival offers. The time with extraordinary collaborators to dig deeper and look past the facts to the emotional coreof a galvanizing story. Because it’s not a documentary on stage. It never is.

2 thoughts on “It’s Not a Documentary

  1. I was at the play reading Saturday night and I have to say again how fabulous this play is and I wish it much success in the near future. I don’t doubt that it will be produced for a much wider audience. You are very talented!

    • Thank you so much for coming out, for supporting new plays, and especially for your kind words about my play! I genuinely appreciate it. Many thanks too, to Gulfshore Playhouse for bringing me in and providing me such amazing talent to put it together.

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