An Interview with Director and Actor, Jonathan Young

Jonathan Young in Austin, Texas, 2022; listen to this interview while you read:

Welcome to this short series of 1:1 interviews with members of the production, “A Pest Control Affair,” a dramedy based on a true story and written by moi, Rosemary Guzman Hook. It is one of five plays that will go live at Hyde Park Theatre on Thursday, February 2nd 2023, and also compliments of Scriptworks which has been producing Frontera Fest for the last 28 years!

This week’s interview is with Jonathan Young, Director of “A Pest Control Affair” as well as Assistant Professor of Drama at Austin Community College and an accomplished actor, fun dad of two, husband, and dog owner. He hails from southern California with long-term stretches on the east coast earning him an MFA in Acting from Brandeis. Jonathan tells it best on his website where he shares clips of his theatrical, commercial, and academic works:

And just in case you miss any part of Jonathan’s interview, here are some highlights from our Q&A:

  • Favorites
  • Stereotypes
  • Transferrable Life Skills  
  • BONUS QUESTION: A Directors Process

Q. Favorite play either acted or directed? Eddie Carbone in “A View from the Bridge” and he enjoyed it because he had to fill in Eddie’s psychology. If you see the play, you possibly will see different interpretations of who/what represents Eddie Carbone and what he was really thinking.

Q. Favorite commercial? If Jonathan’s face looks familiar, it might be a flashback memory of Ritz’s Super Bowl 2016 ad. Look for Jonathan Young at 00:35 then again at 00:39 – excellent!

Q. What is a stereotype attributed to theatre / theatre vibe?

A.  That actors are attention seeking. Some of the best actors are often shy off stage and almost uncomfortable off stage. And the stereotype of the whole theatre world is that artists are scattered and live a nomadic lifestyle. To stay in [theatre] long-term, you have to be highly disciplined and organized, regimented in your schedule.

Q. Where do you see academia intersecting with theatre?

A. One of the main goals of theatre education needs to be transferrable life skills that we can practice and hone in the theatre classroom . . . even concepts in how we respond to art and each other’s criticisms and opinions. Now we can transverse that way of honoring one another’s opinions in the real world. Be better and productive humans. There are so many different aspects of life in the theater. Doing a production is a microcosm of life in and of itself. Theatre is one of the most collaborative life forms. In the real world, we have to work with other people.

Q. “What do you love about theatre…what has you tied to this way of life?

A. I can’t see myself not tied into this way of life. For my entire life, for as long as I can remember, theatre and I have been enmeshed . . . when I was a child, I used to put on performances with my neighbors and cousins … we would charge our family members and community money to come see us.”

BONUS QUESTION (asked offline):

Q. As a Director, is there a process you go through with the stage/the actors/the script as you lead others through to a finished production?

A. Yes, he has a process he’s been honing over the last decade; it’s a scaffolding process of layering both for himself and for the actor different areas of focus until he finally gets to their performance.

When he receives a script, he’ll read it two or three times before he begins planning for it. He’s going for a visceral response to it, allowing the play to sort of work on him. Then he reads through the lens of whatever the needs are for a particular group (production, casting, callbacks, set designers).

On the scaffolding with actors: Jonathan doesn’t want them to come in with any defined sense of how to perform the character yet. Prefers actors to come in as neutral as possible, not making any strong choices yet. To the scaffolding process and as a director to an actor, he does not want them to make too many hard choices too quicky about their characters before scenes are even blocked, Otherwise, actors can end up with something less than organic with emotions that feel prescribed.

As a director and in the beginning of his scaffolding process, Jonathan’s initial focus is only on the big moments, big entrances/exits … and helping the actors to find their grooves, help them to shape it … allow even some organic blocking to occur as the actors feel out the stage and each other.

Overall, as a director Jonathan tries to focus on the immediate and not too far down the line, to allow the actors to create through their acting, to create these unique and amazing characters in productions.

What’s Coming up for Jonathan Young:

Jonathan’s academic semester begins next week, and he’ll be running the box office at ACC for “The Snow” opening in February. Jonathan will also be directing “Rock of Ages” at TexARTS in Lakeway in March.

As always, Thank You to ABC Home and Commercial Services for their sponsorship of this play-from-the-heart during Austin’s Frontera Fest, the largest in all of the Southwest, produced by Scriptworks with Hyde Park Theatre as the playhouse.