In Antarctica, Where it is Very Warm
An Interview with Jona Tarlin

Indie Theater Now asked Jona Tarlin a few questions about this upcoming event.

Who are your favorite playwrights?

I think my whole generation is indebted to Tony Kushner. I was even too young for when it was first produced, but the cultural/theatrical shockwaves reverberated for years after and I think we all absorbed them. That play gave me confidence to place magic in my own work. I also love Albee, Nicky Silver, David Adjmi (his use of big physical transformations changed the way I write), Sam Hunter, and Annie Baker.


What's your favorite pastime when you’re not working on a play?

Currently it's photography (find me at https://www.flickr.com/photos/115380376@N07/). It helped me get through a writing/personal funk. To be able to take a nice long walk and capture moments is very peaceful and the complete opposite of my writing process. It helps me clear my brain out a little and I've also had some great ideas during my walks.


Where does this play take place, and how did you choose that location?

This play takes place on Palmer Station, Antarctica. I've never written a play play set in a living room, or in college, one set in a dorm. The play usually starts for me with a setting. I will become fascinated by a specific location or type of location and the play will emerge from that. Usually the background image on my computer is a picture of the location where the play I'm currently working on is set. I became interested in life in Antarctica when I happened upon the site, http://bigdeadplace.org. The life described there reminded me enough of life on the small, isolated liberal arts campus that I attended that a play started cooking.


When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?

I was super lucky in the sense that I'm from a town with an awesome children's theater. I started doing plays there as soon as I could and basically grew up there. So there never was a moment that made me say, I want to work in theater. It just was what I always did, so it never seemed an option not too. Seeing my first one-act produced was the thing that made me want to stop acting and devote myself to writing for the stage. It was such a high seeing something I wrote up on stage, hearing the audience laugh, the applause, I was done. The nice thing is I still get that high. Seeing the model for the set for this play brought me so much joy, and there's a huge prop at the end of the play and I'm so excited to see this thing (no spoilers!) in person. The moments where something I spent years with on a computer screen becomes reality are the reason I'm so addicted to writing.


Why did you want to write this show?

I tried to write this play for a long time to utter failure. I have notebooks full of research and characters and plot ideas that just got me nowhere. The play was gonna be about oil rights for a while, and something Cold War related. I don't really care to go back and find some more concrete examples. But some of the characters contained traces of the people that populate this play. There was always someone pregnant. There was always a crazy guy in Hawaiian shirts who's been there too long. Those kernels stuck. But I had to put the play away for a year to find my way through it. I think I got stuck on all the research. Then I had a teacher, Julian Sheppard, who asked my class to bring in as way of introduction a one-act set somewhere we'd never been but always wanted to go. I knew it was time to revisit Antarctica and the one act that poured out became the starting point for this play. I began with the events and people referenced in that piece and expanded outward. This play's been through a billion drafts and two readings and there's still lines from that original one act. Not many, but some.


posted August 31, 2014
Jona Tarlin

Jona Tarlin