Jessica Johnson

Dramaturg

Time in Greater OC: 6 Years

Neighborhood: City of Orange

Hometown: Reno, Nevada

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working as a dramaturg for several On the Radar (OTR) Reading Series for the Chance Theatre, and I'm loving working with these talented playwrights and helping communicate their voice to O.C. audiences!

What's been inspiring you recently?

I have recently been researching and looking into the healing power of media. This began as a field known as "cinema therapy," but it undoubtedly applies to live entertainment as well. Especially in 2020 when so many of us flocked to entertainment as an escape from feelings of dread or despair, I feel that this is a fascinating field of study.

Tell us a story from your childhood that illuminates who you are as an artist.

When I was in high school, I had a drama assignment where I had to research a theatrical director. I selected director/choreographer Rob Marshall, and on a whim decided to write to him, never expecting a response. Months later, he called my house and was kind enough to let me interview him. I think that kindled my love of communicating with artists and creatives and wanting to remain close to their creative processes.

Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

I must bow at the metaphorical shrine of Caroline Neuber, who is widely considered to be the first female theatrical director and therefore carved the path for so many others! My favorite classic playwright is Aphra Behn, and my favorite contemporary playwright is Martin McDonagh.

What kind of theatre excites you?

Any text that has metaphorical ties to a phenomenon or event that speaks directly to the current zeitgeist, therefore drawing attention to a social cause or giving voice to those who have previously gone unheard, makes me thrilled to work in live theater!

Outside of a theatre, what's your favorite hot spot in Orange County?

I'm a sucker for Disneyland, but I also love being near the ocean. The O.C. certainly has its pick of beautiful beaches!

What's the craziest thing you have ever needed to do for theatre?

When I was in high school, there was a set mishap where one of the legs of a rolling bed buckled and broke. As the bed needed to remain onstage and move into various positions for an entire scene, I came on in character as a 17th-century servant and simply became the fourth leg of the bed. Let me tell you - my biceps were feeling the pain the next day!

What surprises you the most about your role in the theatre community?

I rather accidentally stumbled into dramaturgy, but as soon as I took a class at Chapman University with Jocelyn Buckner, it felt like coming home. It's a role that came very naturally to me and I am so happy to have discovered it.

What advice do you have for theatre artists just starting out in Orange County?

Though the past year was a brutal blow to our industry, it also forced us to get creative about how we tell our stories and find an audience. It was proof that even without financial backers, a performance space, or professional equipment, new voices can find their platform. Keep telling your story. Someone will listen.

Go ahead, promote your things...

All the information about my upcoming projects and writings can be found on my website at www.jessicajeannejohnson.com!

Jessica Johnson