Monday, August 4, 2014
Spotlight On...Jacob Osborne
Hometown: Thetford, Vermont
Education: BA in American Studies from Yale University, expected in 2016
Favorite Credits: Jared in Body Awareness, Baylor in A Lie of the Mind, Thomas in Fortuna Fantasia (appearing at FringeNYC 2014), and directing Dust Can’t Kill Me.
Why theater?: It’s the activity that makes me feel more present, more generous, and more connected than anything else, and it never feels like work. For me, acting and directing is play, all the time, and as I careen further and further away from childhood, I’m desperately trying to hold onto every playful thing in my life. Being in the woods is a close second.
Tell us about Dust Can’t Kill Me: Dust Can’t Kill Me is a special project devised entirely by a bunch of close friends under the age of 22. We created it at Yale over the last year, performed it in February, and now it’s going up at Theater 80 as part of the FringeNYC festival. Dust is an original folk musical, set in the Dust Bowl, and it gracefully toes the line between historical and mystical. The characters are honest, hilarious, and shockingly relatable, and their story never ceases to surprise. In a little over two hours, Dust offers audiences a ghost story, a love story, and a humble American memorial. Not to mention a dozen of the catchiest folk songs you’ve ever heard. It’s going to be a blast.
What inspired you to direct Dust Can’t Kill Me?: Before Dust, my only directing experience was with ten-day summer camp musicals (no knock on ten-day summer camp musicals, getting seventy kids to sing "Circle of Life" well is a feat). I had always identified myself solely as an actor, and had no plans to branch out. But Abby and Elliah (the writers) invited me over, sat me down in a cramped living room, played me four incredible songs, and told me they wanted me to direct the project that had been consuming their creative focus for half a year. I respected both of them to an outrageous degree, and even though I didn’t necessarily trust my own directing ability, the puzzling fact that they did gave me just enough confidence to say yes. And it has been the most rewarding theatrical experience of my life. So “coerced” may be more accurate than “inspired,” but nevertheless I’m more grateful for their coercion than just about anything.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I’m attracted to gritty theater, with characters who say few words and never mean what they say. I like naturalism, and plays with long scenes in which the actors can dig deep, sync up, and try out myriad tactics for getting what they want. In these ways, for me, it’s hard to beat Sam Shepard and Tennessee Williams (however, I still recognize Shakespeare as the most brilliant person to ever write in the English language).
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: The list is so ridiculously long at this stage in my career that I guess I’ll say this: No matter where the future takes us—geographically, artistically, relationally—I hope that I will be lucky enough to team up at least one more time with my Dust Can’t Kill Me collaborators. It’s a special group of people, and I hope we can continue to make our own work.
What show have you recommended to your friends?: The most stunning piece of theater I’ve ever seen was the London production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Everyone should see that show when it comes to New York.
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I think it would probably be Michael Cera in a four-minute cameo role in whatever number "Expendables" movie they’re on now (4? 7?).
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Nasty slushies from nasty gas stations.
What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: “Put It In Your Manners,” a Childish Gambino and Chiddy Bang mashup by DJ 21azy. It’s a jam.
If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Working on a hut crew in some Northeast mountain chain, drinking tea and reading above the clouds (probably still going to do this, so stay tuned).
What’s up next?: After Dust Can’t Kill Me and Fortuna Fantasia conclude their runs at FringeNYC, I’ll begin my junior year at Yale. That means tapping new members for Red Hot Poker, the sketch comedy group that I direct, and figuring out what my degree actually means. And theater projects. Always more theater projects.