I recently met and spoke with New York City playwright, Jonathan Leaf, about the challenges and success of his new play DECONSTRUCTION.
He has written numerous plays and most recently had a successful run for DECONSTRUCTION which played at the Storm Theater in New York City. I was lucky enough to see it and experience firsthand the intelligent thought provocation that his work achieves.
DECONSTRUCTION dives into the one of the main scandals in the field of literary criticism . . . “Set in 1949, the play imagines the rumored love affair between famous novelist Mary McCarthy and young aspiring academic Paul de Man. Later in his life, de Man gained worldwide notoriety as the foremost American promoter of deconstruction, a concept inspired by German philosopher Martin Heidegger. The story exposes de Man’s hidden past in war-torn Belgium, where he was suspected as an embezzler and Nazi collaborator.”
The play has been extremely well received:
” . . .Jonathan Leaf’s Deconstruction Bravely and Brilliantly Delves into the Difficulties of Truth . . .”
“… an erudite detective story, an inquiry into a man’s personality wrapped up in an in inquiry about philosophical concepts … Leaf strikes a rare balance between narrative and thesis, between action and thought.
“Peterson and Dobbins handle their roles admirably, particularly as the emotional pitch of events escalates. Dobbins is a convincing McCarthy, shifting seamlessly between vulnerability and icy wit, while Peterson’s amorphous de Man manages to be both repulsive and pitiable. These subtleties are facilitated by Leaf’s smart script and the simple set, constituted largely of scattered books.”
“ … a REFRESHING and CONTEMPORARY take on love and philosophy.”
Jonathan Leaf has been nominated for “Best Original Full-Length Script” by the New York Innovative Theatre Awards for his play “The Caterers.” His plays have been produced and performed at 59E59 Theaters, the 29th Street Rep, the Arclight Theater and The Mint. As a journalist and critic, he has written for “The New Yorker,” “The Weekly Standard,” “National Review,” “The New York Post,” “New York Press,” “New York Daily News,” “New York Sun,” “The American,” “Humanities Magazine,” “City Journal,” “City Arts,” “Forbes.com,” “NewPartisan,” “TheStream,” “EdgeMedia,” “ContemporaryThinkers.org,” and “Mosaic Magazine,” among other publications. A Tikvah Fellow and Yale graduate, he is the author of the play “The Germans in Paris,” which was the highest-rated play in audience surveys on TheaterMania.com during its run.
You can follow his exploits here: http://jonathanleaf.weebly.com/
We covered a lot of ground in a short period of time . . . here is the format of the podcast:
You grew up Trenton and went to Yale- where did you get bitten by the writing bug?
How did your experience as a teacher influence you?
Let’s talk about Deconstruction- where did you get the idea to take on this affair in 1949?
What are you trying to communicate to the audience?
What do you want them to think about or stubble with?
What are the themes that predominate in your plays?
Are there any taboos or sacred cows that are in your crosshairs?
When you sit down to write a play how do you go through the exercise?
Do you have a set process?
Then there is the process of producing a play- that seems daunting in and of itself.
Take us through the story of how Deconstruction got from the blank page onto the stage?
How does the casting process work?
Do you find yourself writing parts with certain people in mind?
What is the next step for the play?
You have written a well received book on the Politically Incorrect History of the 60’s.
How is that different from writing plays?
Given your playwright background, are you interested in TV or movies.
How does that differ from the play process? Or is it similar enough that the distinctions are more form over substance?
What’s next for you? What are you interested in writing about going forward?
How do we keep tabs on your next moves and how do we take in Deconstruction?