Jonathan Payne, 2015–16 Fellow

Meet the Fellows:

Jonathan Payne

What was your first experience with Theater?

My first experience of theater was being invited in elementary school to see a touring production of Richard III, starring some unknown actor by the name of Ian McKellan. I admit, I didn’t truly understand it all at my age, but I remember being mesmerized, still and focused. I just remember telling my mother all about it when I got home.

When did you recognize you were a writer? Or when did you start writing?

In the Fourth Grade. My class was asked to write a short story, and I wrote one about an ice cube traveling from California to New York in search of a fridge. My teacher at the time told me that I was going to be a writer. I had been writing ever since.

Where does your inspiration come from? Or who do you look to for inspiration?

I wish I could schedule my inspiration, but it comes from random and unexpected places. I am lucky in this sense, because it takes me some time to research a new play, so by the time I’ve reached the first draft, I usually have another idea on the back burner. I also find that ideas I have can usually be combined, as random as that may seem. My latest idea came from seeing a movie called “Little Otik,” which I then put together with some news I heard at the time about The Jungle, a homeless encampment, being cleaned out by the city of San Jose. Which I then joined with the people I’ve met as a social worker, in addition to my response to all the romance plays I had been seeing at the time. My plays become a sort of Frankenstein’s Monster in the first draft, which then requires smoothing the seams in subsequent drafts.

What are you most looking forward to as a fellow?

One of the things I’ve found most valuable to my career as a playwright are my peers. My journey has been supported and directed by my fellow playwrights, whose work has taught me so much about the craft and the limitless amount of choices one can make. The thing I most look forward to is meeting my fellow cohorts, and getting to know their work.

What do you find most rewarding about being a dramatist? Or what do you find most rewarding about the writing process?

What is exciting to me are the people I’ve met over the years. There is such a wide diversity of experience and knowledge. I have had such interesting debate and conversation. And the research into various topics have been helpful as well. As a playwright you are looking into corners seldom looked at, and it exposes you to various things. I find this the most rewarding part of being a playwright.


Jonathan Payne recently received a 2015 Princess Grace Playwriting Fellowship. His previous play, The Briar Patch, received the 2014 Holland New Voices Award from the Great Plains Theatre Conference. His work has been produced and developed at the Tristan Bates Theatre (UK), Ars Nova, Fringe Festival NYC, Horse Trade Theater Group, Fire This Time Festival, The Bushwick Starr, and Theatrikos Theatre Company. He is a proud member of the Ars Nova Play Group and a devised theatre group Impossible Bottle. He is a recipient of the Rosa Parks Award forBorne to the Ocean (2011) and the John Cauble Short Play Award for Slavery (2002) from the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival. He received a BA from the GSA Conservatoire (UK) and an MFA in Playwriting from Tisch School of the Arts. http://dgfund.org/fellows/jonathan-payne/