Finding Husbands and Stages: Interview with Writer and Actress JJ Pyle

Meagan J. Meehan
9 min readOct 16, 2023

“How to Find a Husband in 37 Years (or Longer…) is a one-woman show by writer and actress JJ Pyle that was awarded the title of Best of Fest at the 2023 Solofest in Los Angeles. The show takes place over Christmas where JJ is being transported to her married sister’s house in rural Indiana when she had hoped to be enjoying a vacation in India. Driven in her father’s pickup truck and listening to him mumble about his four failed marriages and legal issues, JJ starts to reflect on her own romantic history. Both humorous and serious, the play is a commentary on dysfunctional family cycles, heartbreak and hope.

JJ Pyle recently discussed this piece via an exclusive interview.

Meagan J Meehan (MM): How did you discover your talent for writing and what was it about plays that most interested you?

JJ Pyle (JJ): I started writing, and I use the word “writing” loosely, because it was more like journaling, to get through a debilitating heartbreak. Like I-can’t-move-on-with-my-life heartbreak. I can only drink and sleep, and barely-get-myself-to-work heartbreak. I had a vague, hazy idea that I would write a book to help people, other people, get through this kind of pain, but really, I needed to help myself first. It turned into something completely different than that original book idea but I think it is the same message. It just took me 10+ years to discover how I wanted to say it. And I did that in writing classes, workshops, retreats, coffee shops and sitting alone at a table in libraries all over NYC. Plays are the most intimate form of storytelling. They are constantly changing. They are different with every performance. They can never be perfect. But they can be monumental and life-changing for someone who is sitting there, live, in a room watching, who may need to see or hear what is happening in front of them at that particular moment in time. Everyone’s vulnerable in this equation. The search for those moments is basically all I want to do.

MM: How did you initially get interested in theater and how did you break into the industry?

JJ: Right out of college I moved to LA from Indiana to be a fashion designer. (Yes, I know that previous sentence doesn’t make sense.) There was an acting studio, the Sal Dano acting studio, on Robertson Boulevard that I would always pass on my way to my gynecologist and new therapists’ offices, which for some reason, intrigued me. One day I called them, and after some coercion (because they only took referrals!?), they agreed to meet me… at the little donut shop across the street. The woman who interviewed me, I would come to find out later, was Sal Dano’s wife. I was allowed an audit. This audit changed my life. It was a small dark upstairs black box (I didn’t know what a black box was), and I watched a scene from David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago. It was about an underage prostitute and a flak suit. It was scary. I was embarrassed. And kind of mortified that they were doing this in front of me, and unapologetic about it. And I also realized I had to get back there as fast as I could. We studied, we read plays, we rehearsed, we were in class at least 4 hours a night, 3 days a week. One thing led to another… a showcase… working with other theatre companies. I ended up co-founding The Gangbusters Theatre Company and somewhere in there I learned how to produce theatre. And then you’re just in it, you learn how to get headshots and do extra work and get in the union and get an agent… etc.

MM: This play deals with family drama and past relationships, so how tough was it to craft a show based on such personal experiences?

JJ: Really tough. That’s why it took so long. It’s the most vulnerable place I can be, I think. But now, I feel like if I can do this, I can do anything. The main character in this play is my father. I’ve never been very close with my father. He got into some trouble with the law some years ago and I ended up accidentally, unfortunately home for Christmas that year, and on a whim (I had not planned it) and unbeknownst to him, I recorded him telling me his side of the story. I was not doing this to write a play about it. I was doing it to play it back later to my sister and maybe my mom and “pick on him”. And that is a really hard statement to admit in this interview right now because it makes me the asshole. It was an asshole thing to do. And I’m ashamed of it. It’s like that sentiment goes, I can make fun of my family, but you can’t. But what if I’m doing it, on a stage, in front of the whole world, and hoping that they laugh. Which category does that fall into? That being said, these recordings told a pretty interesting story and Dad is a pretty interesting character on paper. I originally thought I had two scripts, one about my Dad, and this stupid shit he did, and one about my ex-loves. I wanted to explore the blissfulness of falling in love and the gut-wrenching agony of breaking up. As I kept writing I realized it was the same script. And, Dad is everyone’s favorite character, which annoyed me for a minute. But now, in playing my dad, and me, talking to my dad, my compassion for him has grown. I have told him now about this project, which was the first step, and he wants to see it.

MM: Was it particularly challenging to discuss any particular relationship and, if so, why?

JJ: My ex-loves in the play have no names on purpose. I guess because they all meld into HIM. The man on the pedestal! Each, at his own time, was my whole universe (I’ll admit, I fall hard). And what if we could just pick pieces and parts of each and Frankenstein them back together as we pleased. That sentiment might be a little marginalizing, I suppose. But I’m okay with it. That being said, it is not my aim to hurt anyone who’s talked about in this play. They were all such important people in my life. And before we had to cut this script into a performable length, each man had a falling in love story and a break-up story, but as it turns out people want to see the drama. One of these no-names is referred to as Maybe Someday and he has been in my life for 18 years, on and off, and is a very dear friend to me currently. He was the hardest to write about. I am mostly poking fun at myself in these relationship stories, but I am doing it at the expense of others. And I am revealing personal information that someone may not want the whole world or their family or our mutual friends to see acted out on a stage. It could be seen as some kind of betrayal. He is the only one that I felt I needed to get some form of “permission” or acceptance from. And it turns out, I was more worried than need be, he was very supportive.

MM: This play is a one-woman show, so how hard is it to prep for that?

JJ: I don’t think the prep is much different than any other kind of play. You hire passionate people that you trust. You figure out how to communicate your vision. You learn your lines. And if the team clicks, which in my case, it really really did, the magic happens. The only good part that was different is that I didn’t have to do any casting.

MM: What’s your favorite part of the play and why?

JJ: There’s this one little part that’s not about dad or the boys, but just about me (under the given circumstances or heartbreak, of course). It goes “I’m a waitress- I mean an actress…I mean a waitress… I mean an actress!” (it’s a little homage to Faye Dunaway’s delivery of “She’s my sister. She’s my daughter. She’s my sister… She’s my daughter” in Chinatown. At the end of the scene, I’m in the restaurant trying to work under these conditions (heartbreak). In real life, I like being a waitress. I’ve been one for 30 years and it’s mostly a fun job (contrary to popular belief) and on its best day it’s a show, a show with food. So, this is also my little show within a show part of the show. But when one is can’t-move-on-with-ones-life heartbroken, it’s the hardest job in the world. So, we see three little waiting-on-table scenarios, and it’s a fun little part for me to play with.

MM: What do you hope audiences take away from this performance?

JJ: To keep going. To keep trying… in love, in family, in career, in life… We are all a work-in-progress and no one path is better than another, just your best with the one you have.

MM: What is some of the best feedback you’ve gotten about this piece thus far?

JJ: I got my first reviews in LA at the Whitefire Theatre’s Solofest. It was our second workshop. We had done our first three day workshop in NYC and made changes and tried them out in LA. I got the review sent to me late at night, weeks later, (I thought it wasn’t even coming), after work, I was reading it on the subway, I started sobbing. It was an out-of-body experience. I was like, “what, wait, what, is that talking about me!?”… Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros at NoHoArtsDistrict.com said “She is an absolute master of storytelling. Sneaky even. The audience is lulled into the false sense that they are merely here to be entertained, amused and to passively listen. By the end of the show, however, we are not only charmed and entranced, but we also understand a little more about ourselves and our patchwork connections with people in our life.” And this review just goes on and on to reveal everything I wanted an audience to see and more that I didn’t even know was there. It was so inspiring and encouraging to me and I am so grateful that this eloquent writer was in the house that night. Also, it’s pretty cool when people you don’t know come up to you after a show and say how much they identified with what they just saw. I have had people tell me it made them feel hopeful and that they are not alone in their search for love and thank me for being so vulnerable and honest. All that makes me feel not alone too.

MM: What other projects are you working on right now and what themes might you like to explore in future works?

JJ: I have two scripts right behind this one. Ooops, I’m an Asshole, the Life and Times of Jennifer Wynne Reeves; Artist. I am adapting this one from her Facebook page. Jennifer was an up-and-coming (and pretty successful) artist who died at 53 of a brain tumor. I loved her artwork from the first moment I saw it. She had a large international Facebook following well before influencing was a thing. And her life is so interesting to me, schizophrenic mother, father killed by the mob, raised by her grandmother, talented athlete and opera singer, but decided to dedicate her life to painting. I started working on this during pandemic and it was just rolling out of me, before I knew it, I had 50 pages. So, I had to stop, that was the moment I knew I had to get How to Find a Husband done first, because if I didn’t, I might never get it done. The next one is a full length (not solo) play called Don’t Ruin it for Me, also relationship themed, set within a sexual harassment meeting held in a restaurant.

MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?

JJ: I want to do my show at regional theatres and off-Broadway. I want to book more TV gigs, guest-stars, recurring, and series regulars. I want to make How to Find a Husband into something else too, the possibilities are endless, podcast, movie, memoir, episodic… I want to write more plays. You know, I just want to do my work. The fun is ultimately in the process.

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Meagan J. Meehan

Meagan J. Meehan is a published author of novels, short stories, and poems. She is also a produced playwright and an award-winning modern artist.