What Sparked Mannequin?

The story of the rise of hate and anti-semtism has haunted my mind since the 2016 election when a swastika was spray-painted on the window of a defunct South Philly fur store. I have always wanted to write a musical. These 2 motivations combined forces, and I finally sat down to craft MANNEQUIN when we were all in Covid 19 forced isolation lockdown in 2020. I needed to channel my despair and keep being creative somehow, so I wrote this musical. These images are of Meglio Furs, the actual site where the defacement occurred.

About the play

MANNEQUIN takes place at the site of a fur store in South Philly, hopscotching through time from 1965 to the present time of 2020. There’s a longstanding conflict between the owner, Olive, an elderly Jewish woman who is a Holocaust survivor, and Betty, a protester who vehemently opposes the fur trade and its barbarism. Olive takes solace in collecting mannequins for her shop, and they animate to talk to her and one another in private moments. She must negotiate terms with a South Philly mobster to keep her business going through the decades and navigate the rougher edges of the streets, and being a woman alone in order to keep her shop afloat.  In 2019, when the play begins, 13-year-old, Patti, and her mother moving to the neighborhood. Patti feels alone in her new city and gravitates to the shop and to Olive to fulfill some kind of community. To combat her loneliness Patti also engages a teenager online who later turns out to be quite troubled. The mannequins serve as a modern greek chorus, sharing their observations on how they see us humans and one other, looking at the world with depth, humor, and absurdity.

Mannequin, Solo Version, by Jennifer Blaine

About me

I grew up in a diverse multicultural community in Brooklyn. I have always wanted to see a world where we can live together in mutual respect and inclusivity. This play both presents a world where that is happening and failing, and also tells the tragic story of loss we are all going through and the quest for personal and societal freedom we are all navigating.I have been a solo artist for 25 years but started writing for other actors while in residence at the Kimmel Center from 2013-2018 when I wrote plays for teenagers that were crafted with them in mind. Those actors have changed my process forever, and now I need to write for many.

The reading in 2020

I workshopped a virtual reading of Mannequin in 2020 as an AEA showcase and fundraiser for the Poor People’s Campaign. I cast 16 actors all around the country to play to play the humans and mannequins (shown with pink backgrounds). After just 3 rehearsals, with the amazing Jasmine Hammon at the helm as Stage Manager and Assistant Director, we performed LIVE on Zoom on December 5, 2020.

The Cabaret,

Invitation to Play

I produced a cabaret of songs from Mannequin for FringeArts 2021. I cast 3 actors and myself to perform 11 songs. I engaged Andrew Mullin to create my sheet music, and Steven Crino adapted and played the music. Pictured here are Lexi Thammavong, Christine DiJoseph, and Samantha Solar.

Solo Version of Mannequin

After a lot of trial and error and rewriting, I attempted to produce a full-scale production. But it just would not work. I engaged directors and production companies. Everything fell through. So, I pivoted. I will make a solo version of the musical as an ambassador piece to represent the whole musical. I applied for and received a generous grant from The Foundation for Conscious Living, founded by Gay and Kathyln Hendricks in May 2022. The grant is making the next stage possible. I have updated my sheet music and am now working with Obie-ward winning solo performance genius Heather Woodbusy! We meet regularly to adapt the script, discover the characters’ voices and gestures, and shape the whole story. Heather’s aesthetic is that the solo performer is the most cinematic of theatre forms, and just one performer can be every aspect of the story. I’m game! We plan to present a live and a virtual production of Mannequin in the Spring of 2023.