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1000 Playwright Interviews The first interview I posted was on June 3, 2009.  It was Jimmy Comtois.  I decided I would start interview...

Sep 5, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 983: Jonathan Spector

Jonathan Spector

Hometown: Annandale, VA

Current Town: Oakland, CA

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Too many things at once, which I find immiserating. I’m much happier just working on one thing at a time, but the fates conspire against me. I’m workshopping my play EUREKA DAY, about an outbreak of Measles at a progressive private school in Berkeley. It’s sort of a play about how we find consensus with people when can’t agree on the facts. I’m trying to complete a draft of a new piece that I started in Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor about decision science and happiness called THIS MUCH I KNOW. And I have a super-rough new piece, SIESTA KEY which’ll have a reading in Crowded Fire’s Matchbox Series in November and needs a big rewrite first.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  I moved around a lot as a kid and went to five different elementary schools. I was constantly in the position of having to figure out who these new people were and how the rules worked. That combination of curiosity and alienation is usually my entry point into exploring some aspect of the world I don’t understand.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I know everyone says money, but still: money. Both to lower the cost of seeing it and the to pay artists what they need.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  All the people whose work blew me away and opened my mind to what theatre could be when I lived in New York in my early 20s: Melissa James Gibson, Anne Washburn, Chuck Mee, Jason Grote, Sheila Callaghan, MacWellman, Les Waters, Daniel Aukin in his run at Soho Rep (Sarah Benson’s run has also been breathtaking). Back when I thought I wanted to be a director, I assisted Steve Cosson on a couple of the early Civilians shows, and that idea of treating a piece of theater of as an investigation made a big impact.

Then there’s a whole bunch of the writers I first encountered when I was the Literary Manager of the Bay Area Playwrights Festival: Annie Baker, Sam Hunter, Marcus Gardley, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Julia Jarcho. And the greats across the pond: Beckett, Caryl Churchill, Martin Crimp, David Greig, Complicite, Peter Brook.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theater that assumes a deep intelligence on the part of its audience. Theater that is strange and surprising and uncomfortable.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Read a lot and see a lot. Put up your own work however you can.

Find your people. If you see something that excites you, try to find a way to get involved in any capacity with those people or that company. Just about everyone welcomes free labor.

Turn off the internet. When there are a million other voices swirling around in your head, it’s hard to hear your own.

Q:  When not writing on a computer, what's your go-to paper and writing utensil? When on computer, what's your font?

A:  My handwriting has become progressively more illegible even to me, so while I occasionally scrawl notes on any available surface with any available instrument, the real writing happens on a computer. Garamond is my font.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Other people’s plays in the Bay: Chris Chen’s A Tale of Autumn at Crowded Fire, Madeleine George’s The Watson Intelligence at Shotgun Players, Marcus Gardley’s Black Odyssey at Cal Shakes and (though this is a long way off, I'm extremely excited about it) Dipika Guha’s In Braunau at San Francisco Playhouse.

My stuff: I have two shows opening next year– Eureka Day at Aurora Theater Company (April 13-May 13), and Good. Better. Best. Bested. at Custom Made Theater (June 14 - July 7).

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