About the Play:
Mark and Christa are trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic World, feeling certain that they are the last two people alive on the planet, but that reality is shattered when a strange visitor arrives at their residence. RUNNING TIME: 25 minutes.
Lobster Man will be presented on Saturday, October 27th at 3:00 pm.
About the Author:
Jonathan Cook currently resides in Augusta, GA, with his lovely wife and two crazy awesome children. He received his BA in Communications from Augusta State University in 2005 and has been involved with theatre and films for over 18 years. As an undergraduate, he was given the opportunity to intern at NBC studios in New York, where he documented the experience in his short film ‘There and Back Again’. The film went on to win the audience favorite award at the Reel Stories Film Festival.
His primary involvement with theatre work has generally been as an actor, but over the years, he has also become an accomplished playwright. His haunting one-act play, ‘The Murder Boys’ premiered in the 2009 Pittsburgh New Works Festival and his science fiction drama, ‘Close to Home’ won third place in the 2010 Porter Fleming Literary Competition. In 2011, he achieved immediate success with his post-apocalyptic fantasy play, ‘Lobster Man’, which was performed in several theaters across the USA, including Theatre Southwest (Houston, TX), Eclectic Company Theatre (Los Angeles, CA), Astor Street Opry Company (Astoria, OR), and Le Chat Noir Theatre (Augusta, GA).
Aside from theatre, he also uses music as a creative outlet. He is the guitarist, vocalist, and founding member of the progressive metal band Nine Day Descent and they are currently completing the final mix and master of their first CD to be released in late-2012.
OOB Festival: Tell us a little about your playwriting career. When did you start writing plays? Have you had any memorable “ah ha” moments about writing for theatre?
Jonathan: I was introduced to theatre by acting in high school and throughout college. That gave me a familiarity with the structure of how plays are generally written and, as an undergraduate, I wrote my first play which was performed on my university’s stage. Since then, I’ve written several others that have been performed around the USA. The thing about writing in a dialogue driven format is that, after a page or two, the characters get a free will and begin speaking on their own. Sometimes it’s hard to shut them up. I’m also the vocalist/guitarist in a metal band and I use the same writing format when constructing lyrics for songs. The verses are scene changes and lines of dialogue between characters in an ongoing story. Each song resembles a script when written out.
My “ah ha” moments don’t generally surface in the writing phase of playwriting. It usually happens during a rehearsal or even a workshop of the play. Being a part of the rehearsal process for the first performance of your play is a value that cannot be matched. You receive a visual of the things that work and the things that aren’t working and you find better ways to deliver your product beyond that initial performance. My most recent play is a western called Brackish. In the play, there’s a moment where the main villain is commanded to drop his weapon and instead of dropping it himself, he hands it to one of his underlings to put it on the ground for him. This then leads to a humorous exchange of the weapon back and forth, which may be confusing when seen written in stage directions on paper, but when acted out during the performance it got one of the biggest laughs of the night.
OOB Festival: Talk about your entry to this year’s Festival. How did you come to write this play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
Jonathan: Lobster Man isn’t a play I dwelled on for long. I literally sat in front of the computer one day and said “I want to write a post-apocalyptic story.” I’ve always been interested in post-apocalyptic media – movies, novels, games, etc. – so it just felt right. Another element I wanted in the story was a bizarre supporting character; something that may or may not be human and behaved differently than the main characters.
I threw Mark and Christa into this dilapidated landscape, fighting for the chance to survive. The original first draft, however, contained too much exposition. I read through it several times and was sickened at the fact that it was written in way that seemed like I felt obligated to hold the hand of the audience and explain every little detail of this shattered World to them. The focus needed to be more on the relationship of Mark and Christa. “Post-apocalyptic” is merely the setting. The life of the story is in Mark and Christa. So, I applied numerous wordsmith sessions to this piece until I got it right where it needed to be.
To date, Lobster Man has been performed in four different theatres in the USA and at a University overseas in the UK. I believe the thing that makes audiences connect with this play is the fact that the fear of being alone is collectively shared by the majority of people in the World. We are a society that longs for human interaction whether we realize it or not. We depend on it and often times demand it. Many people will say the character Lobster Man is a metaphor or a representation of something bigger. I say he’s real and waiting in his kingdom for the 500th sunset to pass.
OOB Festival: What/who are some of the major influences on your writing? Do you have any sources of inspiration that might be considered unconventional?
Jonathan: I have always been a huge fan of the original Twilight Zone series, so Rod Serling is definitely one of my biggest influences. He always delivered something fresh with every episode with plots that made you think and often times would alter your perception of what you thought was actually happening. In a way, I find myself doing the same thing in just about everything I write, and my surprise endings are always built around clues left along the way.
Science Fiction novelist Fred Saberhagen is another favorite author of mine. I’m particularly fond of his Empire of the East trilogy and its sequel, The Book of Swords series, which blends science fiction and fantasy into one genre. The series provides details for a magical World that which out to be a version of Earth that was transformed by a super computer. It’s one of those
things he reveals in a subtle way, but the revelation is like a Daniel-san crane kick to the face. You see it coming, but you’re not prepared for it.
Comic books have also been a major influence to my writing. Comic books provide storyboard art and dialogue in a sequential fashion. I’m not much of an artist, but if I’m writing a script, whether it be for film or theatre, I always have an ongoing storyboard in my head, just like you’d see in a comic book. Plus, it’s another dialogue driven medium made by passionate people who do their best to provide high quality stories. If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to read Bill Willingham’s Fables series, House of Mystery by Matt Sturges, or iZombie by Chris Roberson. Any project by the Clockwork Storybook team is worth taking a look at. Comic books aren’t always superheroes in tights.
OOB Festival: Tell us about your home base in Georgia. How does your family life influence your work as an actor and writer? How often are you on the road?
Jonathan: I’ve lived in Georgia my whole life and there are plenty of rural areas, but there are also active big cities available to visit, like Atlanta or Savannah. I live in Augusta, which is the second largest city in Georgia, and while it’s not necessarily booming with theatrical arts, there are theatres in town, like Le Chat Noir Theatre, that heavily support emerging playwrights and give them the opportunity to have their works performed. There are also many cultural events that take place here just about every weekend. It’s easy to find something “arts” related going on in town to attend.
My family has been my biggest motivator in being creative. I have a very supportive wife who manages to not strangle me when I’m in a period of extensive rehearsal schedules or writing sessions and my children are absolutely unbelievable. I’ve basically been compiling stories in my brain for years, but it wasn’t until when my son, Tristan, was born four years ago that I really began focusing more on writing them down. He’s been growing up so fast, and I kept thinking about all the quick moments just passing by while he is young that I won’t have any more when he gets older. It made me realize that I’m getting older myself and if I didn’t start getting my ideas down on paper, the days will pass and I’d lose the opportunity to share these stories parading around in my head. My daughter, Sophie, just turned one year old and the other day she told me, “Woota, Woota”. This translated means “Father, even if you aren’t one of the six finalists to be published, we’ll all be here at home waiting for you and loving you.”
OOB Festival: When did music become part of your creative life? Can you talk more about your “progressive metal” band? Do you think writing and performing with your band affect the way you use words in your plays?
Jonathan: I’ve been playing guitar since 1995 when I was a freshman in high school. When I started playing in my first real band, we discovered that I wasn’t too bad of a vocalist either as we jammed through some cover songs. My current band is called Nine Day Descent and perhaps “progressive metal” isn’t the right term. I’d say that we have more of a classic thrash metal sound with progressive elements. The progressive side of things being that we don’t commonly use the generic radio song structure and the lyrics in our music tell an ongoing story that is very loosely based on the myths of the Greek God Hephaestus. The difference between writing a play and song lyrics is that, for the most part, plays have to have a natural sounding dialogue or else the audience won’t believe anything that is happening on stage. With song lyrics, however, it’s all about finding the best flow of words that complement the music while making sense. For example, in real life a person most likely wouldn’t comment “the cadence of that beating hammer resounding like thunderous hounds.” But as a lyric, it’s poetic and gives a great description of what the characters in the song are hearing.