21 Jul F30 Countdown – Miranda Jonte
‘Tis a mere fortnight until the festival begins, and I’m starting to forget the meaning of the phrase, “waiting patiently.” Thankfully we have Miranda Jonte to help us through today’s countdown!
Miranda Jonte was born and raised in the Bay Area. MFA, Acting, Actors Studio, NYC; BA ,Theatre and German, Chico State, CA; University of Tuebingen, Germany. After years of the audition grind, she began creating her own work in 2009, with the intention of writing meaty roles for women. The result was the full-length play, Greasemonkey. Greasemonkey was a semi-finalist for the Princess Grace Award in playwriting, and premiered in NYC, 2013.
Her next play, St. Francis, was also a semi-finalist for Princess Grace, and was selected for publication in Applause Books’ The Best Plays from American Theatre Festivals 2015 (FringeNYC). She and director Stephen Brotebeck also helmed the Chicago and NYC premieres of John Minigan’s Breaking the Shakespeare Code. She played Anna in both productions.
Her company, Hey Jonte!, has produced two projects with OOB: The Maltese Walter, and Easter At The Entrée Gold. She’s delighted to participate in OOB as a playwright this year.
OOB Fun Fact: The Maltese Walter, Easter at the Entrée Gold, and Breaking the Shakespeare Code were written by OOB Alumni John Minigan.
When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?
I began in 2009. There was no ‘aha’ moment. It was simply me walking the hills behind our house in CA with the family dog, a book of love poems in my hand, trying to grapple with losing my dear momma. The book was Bleeding Hearts: Love Poems for the Nervous and Highly Strung. Great book. It got me through a breakup with a man I deeply, deeply loved. I used the poems to weave a dialogue between a man and woman that charted the course of their relationship. I began filling up notebooks with a blue pen. Scenes emerged. It became Greasemonkey, my first play.
How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
I thought I was going to write a play about sisters, one being a newscaster in NY. Thank god that was scrapped. I was running on the treadmill one day under a large TV, and there was a segment about marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle. Like a thunder clap, there it was. The ocean. My gal studied the ocean. From there I went to the library and borrowed Susan Casey’s book, The Devil’s Teeth. It’s about the great white sharks who frequent the Farallon Islands off the San Francisco coast, and the scientists who study them. As a Northern California girl, I set all my stories on my home turf; it’s a great supporting character. I didn’t know if The Shark Play was going to be about a shark biologist who gives up her beloved sharks to care for her orphaned niece (thank God that idea also died an early death) or not, but the character of Ben, the second scientist, kept making himself known, and when they do that, it’s because they want to be written. I suppose the inspiration is my phobia of sharks, due to reading Jaws at age 8 (I had very attentive parents, thanks, I just read too much to keep tabs on), and my constant low grade nostalgia and bone-deep yearning for the foggy dampness of NorCal. So I made these into a sandwich.
What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?
Physical, bold, fierce, compassion, abandon.
What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
Honestly, the people I work with. Stephen Brotebeck, longtime director of our works, is from a movement and choreography background. He refuses to use blackouts and ensures every transition is a furthering of the story. This has allowed and encouraged me to not be hindered by physical limitations or physical buttons on a scene; it has fostered a forward motion in my writing. I write and think, good thing it’s not my job to figure out the staging! It’s very freeing. Another influence is playwright John Minigan, whose plays I know primarily as an actor, and next as producer and director. Every word is chosen so carefully, and his razor sharp instinct about rhythm has sharpened my own. It’s amazing when you find the right word and therefore, the hone the pulse of the intention. Something amusing becomes hilarious; or a tepid threat becomes a loaded weapon. It’s all about syllables and cadence. Finally, if you find actors you want to write for, their presence in your head will inform and improve your writing. And you don’t always get a say in whom you’ll create something for! It chooses YOU.
What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?
I nearly went into the Navy’s Officer Candidate School.
What are some of your favorite plays?
Jon Robin Baitz’s play Other Desert Cities absolutely DESTROYED me. I also love frequent collaborator John Minigan’s work. His Breaking the Shakespeare Code is brilliant, sexy, and dangerous.
Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?
I’d like to turn my play, St. Francis, into a film. It’s about a woman who runs a no-kill dog shelter and must approach her estranged father for money to keep the shelter open. I believe there’s a market for it. I just need to turn it into a screenplay. We’ve filmed the beloved bar scene from Greasemonkey and it’s a ten-min short. It needs eyes on it.
I’ve got a couple of ideas about the next thing I’ll write, but as I’ve learned, they may or may not come to fruition. The piece, like the character’s journey (which sounds really douchey), tells you what it’s going to be. Not the other way around.
Her play The Shark Play will be performed on August 11th at 8:30pm. Sully and Ben, marine scientists and stars of the popular TV show, ‘Shark Squad,’ have been fan favorites for years. As they meet to do their first ever on-air live broadcast from the choppy, shark-filled waters of San Francisco Bay, Ben blindsides Sully with unexpected news. As the sharks begin to surface from the deep, so do the partners’ long-held resentments and fears about their future.