LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Joseph Frost, Part 1: Hooked by Theatre

Joseph Frost is a playwright, director and actor living with his wife, Shannon, and children, Nina and Darby, in Jackson, Mississippi. He earned an MA in Theatre: Acting and Directing and an MFA in Script and Screenwriting from Regent University. Joseph appeared in the film The Proper Care and Feeding of an American Messiah and will be in the indie feature Endings written and directed by Christopher J. Hansen. Frost has won awards for his writing for both stage (The Great Play) and screen (The Heart of Saturday Night), and his plays were the feature of the 2005 Malone College Playwright's Showcase. He has directed both classic and contemporary works, from Shakespeare to Chekhov to Ionesco, along with several world premieres including Paul Patton's Kurt Gerstein, and his own DisEase and Braids, and this fall will be directing a new work based on the book of Ecclesiastes. He has been a participant in the Art Within Symposium for writers of faith and the president of the board of directors for Christians in Theatre Arts (CITA). Joseph is the Chair of Theatre at Belhaven College and the founding artistic director of the floodlight theatre company

LeAnne: Have you always been a performer?

Joe: As a kid, I remember my cousins, my brother, and I used to make up skits to perform for our parents, like an at-home vaudeville. I was involved in several performances at church and that kind of thing. But it wasn't until junior year in high school that I got involved in theatre--I was a guy, and I was standing too close to the auditions for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (12 brothers needed!). I went to college thinking I'd go into Music Education, but halfway through the first semester I got hooked into the theatre program. It was a very small department, and I had the opportunity to be involved at every level.

LM: What two roles have been your favorites?

JF: I had the privilege to play the role of Hamlet at Regent University in 2003. It's an absolute mountain of lines, all of which are brilliant, and it challenges one's acting abilities both dramatically and comedically. It was a turning point kind of role for me. I was really blessed to be able to step up to it.

I also got to play the lead role of Davis in the original production of James Frizzell's In the Flesh. The process of working on new plays is a real passion of mine, and that play in particular was one where I felt very strongly about the importance of the story, though it's a difficult one.

LM: Tell me briefly about your playwriting process. Do you start with an idea, a character, a scene? Are you working on any plays right now?

JF: It can vary from project to project for me. I actually have a very bad writing process in terms of discipline--when the inspiration strikes, I write. A more disciplined writer might be able to take a theme and shape a story to suit it, but I generally start from a single element--a setting or piece of dialogue--and build from there. One of my first plays was inspired by watching a performance that I didn't like. I started thinking, "What would I rather be watching right now?" I can only write what interests me, rather than thinking purposefully about pleasing or speaking to a particular audience. For that matter, I often  don't know what my writing is about until it's done.

I'm in rewrites on a new play called Anathema. It's a difficult play, and the story deals with the unraveling of an unhealthy family dynamic. I started on it because I read an interesting news article about a particular family that I found striking. As I wrote, things happened in the story that I hadn't expected so it's become quite different from the original article I read. I'm hoping to finish another draft before the end of the summer.

On Thursday, Joe Frost will talk about teaching acting as well as the challenges he has faced in theatre because of his faith.

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