77. INTERVIEW: Jonathan Spector

Hello listeners! This week, we chat with Oakland-based playwright JONATHAN SPECTOR and learn about his remarkable journey into theater. We dig deep into his play “Eureka Day” as he shares his thoughts on playwriting. Be sure to read “Eureka Day” when it becomes available! We’re so excited for you to listen to this episode. Check it out!


Jonathan Spector is a playwright based in Oakland, California. His play “Eureka Day” was a New York Times ‘Critics’ Pick’ and received all of the San Francisco Bay Area’s new play Awards: Glickman Award, Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award, Theatre Bay Area Award, and Rella Lossy Award. This and other plays including “This Much I Know”, “What Comes Next”, and “Siesta Key” have been produced and developed across the country. He is a MacDowell Colony Fellow, a Core Writer at Playwrights Center in Minneapolis, and a recipient of South Coast Rep’s Elizabeth George Commission. In October, his audio drama “The Flats” (co-written with Lauren Gunderson and Cleavon Smith) will premiere with Aurora Theater.

To learn more about Jonathan and his work, be sure to check out his website www.jonathanspector.org/ or follow him on Twitter twitter.com/spectorjon

Sarah – RBG’s passing / Sam leaving Instagram / Hulu’s Pen15 is back!!! / Play I want to highlight this week’s from all my play reading is Caridad Svich’s “RED BIKE”!
Sam – Documentary film “Gunda”
Jonathan – Enjoying the air outside since the fires / Netflix’s Cobra Kai

Jonathan also shared with us his favorite playwriting exercise. Check it out below and start writing today!

I have mixed feelings about exercises because, although I will assign them to students, I never use them myself. Except for this one, which I think of as the playwriting equivalent of a piano player practicing your scales:

1) Record a five minute overheard conversation between strangers.
2) As precisely as possible, transcribe it into dialogue.
3) The goal is to put something on the page that when read will sound exactly like what’s on your recording, which means including all of the filler words, pauses, upspeak, elongation of words, emphasization, repetition, non-verbal sounds etc.

It’s easy to forget how bizarre real human speech is, and so often in writing dialogue we filter all this other stuff out without even being aware we’re doing it. That’s why it’s helpful to periodically reset our baseline of what actual speech sounds like, so that if we are removing parts of it in our dialogue, it’s an active choice rather than a default.


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