OOB Final 30 Countdown – Jonathan Josephson

Well, folks, we are exactly halfway through our Final 30 countdown! Already! And here’s Jonathan Josephson to kick off our final stretch.

Twenty six of Jonathan’s plays have been produced at site-specific locations, schools and theaters around the world including Actors Theatre of Louisville (Humana Festival), Milwaukee Rep (RepLab), San Jose Rep (SJREAL), and Chance Theater. Jonathan is the Executive Director of Unbound Productions which has produced ten of his adaptations as a part of Wicked Lit and History Lit including The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Las Lloronas, The Grove of Rashomon, and Anansi and the Demons. Jonathan has received an Individual Artist Award from the Pasadena Arts Council to create the Sherlock Holmes mash-up Holmes, Sherlock, and The Consulting Detective, is a four-time Finalist for Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Heideman Award and a Finalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. B.A. Theatre: Playwriting from UCSD. Proud member of the Dramatist Guild, Lifetime Member of the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights. The play Grandpa and the Gay Rabbi is dedicated to my grandfather, Gabriel Testa, and Rabbi Zachary Shapiro.

1. When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?

I started writing plays when I was 18, though I starting my journey as a storyteller when I was about 5. My parents have a recording of me telling a wild safari adventure story about two brothers (I have a brother) that’s pretty out there… that was my start. I knew I wanted to write plays by the summer after high school when I experienced two productions – one tragic and one hilarious – that both ignited my imagination in ways that no other anything ever had. Now I’m about 40 plays in, I think I’m starting to learn ow this actually works.

2. How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?

I had always been close to my grandfather and we became especially close over the past year or so (before he passed away in January). He was genuinely old-school but oddly progressive in his thinking (compared to most people I knew who were born in the 20s) and he also had a really unique, colorful way of expressing just about everything. So the day that he found out that the new rabbi of our Reform Jewish congregation was gay – I mean those were conversations for the ages. On the one hand he was shocked and confused (but not “angered” or “disgusted” or anything close) – just genuinely surprised. Because he thought “the gays” were just certain things and acted certain ways, and the new rabbi (who had been with our synagogue for at least two years at this point) was none of those things. So this is play the dreamed up conversation, that my grandfather had with his new rabbi the day that he learned this new information (with some flourishes of straight fiction woven in for drama).

3. What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?

Inquisitive, Self-depreciating, Sly, Theatrical, Fun.

4. What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?

My Uncle Michael was the first storyteller I ever knew, and hearing him tell original (extemporaneous) fantasy stories in his dungeon after Thanksgiving dinners was my first exposure to a fiction writer. I fell in love with the stories of Eesop, Homer, and E.B. White as a child; William Goldman and The Princess Bride made me want to write; and Tennessee Williams, Neil Simon made me want to write plays. Charlie Kaufman, Neil Gaiman, Stephen Sondheim, Freddie Mercury, David Mamet, Moises Kaufman, David Eggers, that Shakespeare guy, Washington Irving, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle push me to do better, dig deeper, be more creative, be smarter, and ask bigger questions every time I sit down to write.

5. What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?

I am compulsively honest.

6. What are some of your favorite plays?

[The Scottish Play], 33 Variations, Thom Pain: Based on NothingThe Quality of Life, Into the Woods, Hair, and Veitgone.

7. Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?

Grandpa and the Gay Rabbi will be read as part of One City, One Pride in West Hollywood on June 25 as a part of a week-long arts festival. I also have a reading coming with Little Candle Productions of That Laurence Fishburne Play, an evening-length piece that was inspired by my Humana 10-minute 27 Ways I Didn’t Say “Hi” to Laurence Fishburne – that will happen in early June (littlecandleproductions.com) My theatre company Unbound Productions will revive my adaptation of Katherine Mansfield’s The Garden Party as a part of History Lit: A Festival of Timeless Stories at the Pasadena Museum of History (July 9-31) and also a TBA adaptation as a part of Wicked Lit 2016. 


His play Grandpa and the Gay Rabbi will be performed on August 12th at 6:30pm. Set after a hate crime that shocks their community, newly instated Rabbi Gold will try to help Grandpa widen his world view. This ain’t gonna be easy.