Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Jonathan Weber

It’s been a while readers, but due to travels, injuries and etc, I’ve been a bit distracted from posting!  I’ve got great interviews coming up, starting with the awesome Jon Weber who I caught up with in good ol’ NY!

Jonathan Weber is Administrative Director of Theater for the New City and lives in Brooklyn, NY. He is a member of the planning committees for the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts and the Love N' Courage Benefit.  He graduated from Binghamton University and is a HUGE Mets fan.  His current project, TNC’s Summer Street Theater is running until September 16th, if you’re in the NYC area, def check it out!

Jonathan Weber
Wed. July 27th 2011
New York, NY 12pm

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on Theater for the New City’s Street Theater tour.  It an original, musical comedy, directed by Crystal Field, our executive director. I’m her first assistant director for this project.  It’s a really unique project, a huge cast of actors, crew and a five-piece band.  Almost like a guerilla theatre piece, we play outdoors in parks and playgrounds all over the city. 

What is the play about?

It’s a state of the world, state of the city kind of play.  It incorporates a lot of current events.  We follow the main character and the journey he takes and how he becomes active in trying to bring about change.  One particular issue is fracking in upstate NY.  I know of a lot of people that don’t know about it or that it's even going on and it’s becoming a real big issue.  There are people in Pennsylvania that are lighting their tap water on fire or the water getting contaminated in the Catskills and with the process of nature, possibly contaminating the water in NYC.  Cuts in funding to the arts, education, astronomical rents in the city, lack of a middle class, an increasing dependence on Nuclear Power and how it may affect us.  Those are a few of the issues that were dealing with in the street theater.

What would you say is your directing style?

Ummmmm.  I don’t know if I have one. I think if there is one style, which is more prevalent in my directing, it’s probably Meisner.  But I don’t like to tie myself to one thing, so I try to take a different approach to each show that I direct.  For example, last show I directed was a play called Age Out, which was basically set in real time, in a restaurant.  The entire play was these four guys sitting around a table drinking.  Basically, little to no action. So the focus was on the dialogue and making sure the dialogue is delivered in such a way that there is a pace to it. And also working in, they’re all drinking and over the course of the play, 33 beers are consumed, which is a challenge for any hardy drinker! I tried to work in a specific pattern and rhythm to each drink, almost like choreography.

Who or what inspires you?

I take my inspiration from…everyone.  I like things that are focused in realism, humanity, and the way people really speak to each other.  What inspires me is the reality of the world, the reality of life.

What are some of the challenges you face as a theatre maker in 2011 NYC?

Funding, funding, funding. 
What are you doing at the moment to combat that? 

Funding is a major challenge for any Non-profit Theater company, which is what many of the Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theaters in NYC are (TNC is one as well). We rely on grants from Foundations and Individuals quite a bit, but also on grants that we get from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and the NY State Council on the Arts. But these agencies are, especially in the current economic climate, constantly being threatened by budget cuts, and the grant money that we do get is in danger of being significantly reduced. Though our Government grants are not large, they are important. We, and I know many other companies and individual productions are as well, have been moving towards a much more Grassroots method of fund raising, reaching out to individuals through places like Kickstarter, holding benefit parties, or even through the tried and true method of direct mail. It may seem Byzantine in the 2000s, but people will still respond to getting an appeal letter in the mail and writing out a check. Every little bit helps!

Dream projects?

When I was in college I always wanted to direct Hurly Burly.  Working here, because we only do new plays here, that’s all I’ve done.   New work.  So I’ve actually gotten away from thinking of plays that have already been done.  Hurly burly at this point seems a little cliché, as its been done to death.  I don’t know if I can name one play, but a play with a 50,000 budget.  Just to see what I can do with a play with a real budget.  That I think, is a dream project.

Final question.  Is the director dead?

No, the director is not dead.  Especially working in a place like this, with Crystal my boss and watching her direct, whose methods are sometimes unorthodox but watching her direct or act it’s a clinic in how to put a play together.  One of my colleagues here Mark, told me a long time ago, when you are the director, you are the god of the show. I stress most as a director, more so than a style, is the need to make sure that your actors know whose driving the bus.  If you can come in and say this is what we’re going to do, i'm in charge and I know what i'm doing your actors will listen to you and trust you and you will be able to work with them forever.  In my time here a director i've been able to establish a strong group of actors that I like to work with and possibly for the several years.

Thanks Jon for sharing your thoughts!

"The seed to the craft of acting is the reality of doing." Sanford Meisner