The Life of an Actor in the Digital Reading Series



Describe the Night graphicAn interview with Jonathan Erwin by Theatre 200 practicum student Julie Whapham. 

Did you know that MU Theatre's Digital Reading Series produces each play in ONE WEEK?

You read that right.

Actors, technicians, and production team members have ONE WEEK to produce a full-length play.

Wondering how these actors have been able to do this, I interviewed Jonathan Erwin, an actor in two of these productions. Erwin will be playing young Vladimir Putin in Describe the Night, which will be airing on YouTube on March 28. Erwin talks about his approach to the character, “I am trying to think about what a bully would do. I focused on being the bully and being able to deliver lines as more reserved and direct. The character is still very confused in the show because he’s still young. He just started in the KGB and asked to follow around this reporter woman" shared Erwin. 

Describe the Night describes the stories of seven men and women over the course of 90 years. During the play, a plane crashes, people fall in love, and conspiracy theories run wild. When asking Erwin what he thought about the show's antagonists, he replied, “the show’s interesting because I’d say there’s no clear villain in the show. Rather, the characters are their enemies. And then there’s Russia.”

After talking with Erwin further, we discussed what drives an actor’s passion for acting. I asked him
what draws him to acting as his passion? “My love for acting came from audiences and making audiences feel. When I’m watching movies, I’m like, wow Adam Driver makes me feel angry at him in Marriage Story. I recently watched Queen’s Gambit, and she is incredibly talented at small gestures. And then I feel for the characters’ victories during Star Wars or Spiderman. So many emotions. I started acting from a young age. I loved theatre before, but when I realized that I had the power to have such an impact on people, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I want to make people feel angry at me if I’m the villain or cheer if I’m the hero. I want to give people that emotion.” Everyone has a story to tell. Does life have clear villains and heroes?"

You can see Jonathan Erwin in both Describe the Night by Rajiv Joseph and The Helpers by Maggie Lou Rader. 

Attend the MUT Digital Reading Series

New works that provide unique perspectives on our contemporary moment, shine a light on injustice, and share stories from underrepresented voices.

Please be advised that the series includes works that depict violence and trauma; audiences should review available information before deciding to attend a reading.

Youtube links to the shows in the Digital Reading Series can be found on the MU Theatre webpage.

Sunday, March 28, 2021, 7:30 pm EST
Describe the Night
by Rajiv Joseph, director Stephen Stocking

CW: This production is set within a specific historical context and contains themes/language that are potentially offensive and disturbing as part of that historical context (anti-semitism, ableism, homophobic slurs).

Set in Russia over the course of 90 years, this thrilling and epic new play traces the stories of seven men and women connected by history, myth, and conspiracy theories. In 1920, the Russian writer Isaac Babel wandered the countryside with the Red Cavalry. Seventy years later, a mysterious KGB agent spies on a woman in Dresden and falls in love. In 2010, an aircraft carrying most of the Polish government crashed in the Russian city of Smolensk.

All shows in the Digital Reading Series will be available on the College of Creative Arts Digital Reading Series playlist on youtube through April 10. 

Full Series: 

The Helpers
by Maggie Lou Rader, directed by Lindsey Augusta Mercer

The Helpers is a new perspective from the other side of the most famous bookshelf in history. Miep Gies, an immigrant, and secretary for Otto Frank's famous Opekta company, leads a group of helpers to preserve the residents of the Secret Annex and the spirit of goodness and survival during World War II. The Helpers is a tale of joy, hope, friendship, and resistance during one of history's darkest moments.

Baby Camp
by Nandita Shenoy, directed by Jenny Mercein

When Toni, Maria, and Aditi arrive at the Future is Freedom Retreat, they don’t know what to expect, but their fearless guide Lois is eager to share her plan to take back the power from conservative forces in government. Set in the not-too-distant future, “Baby Camp” asks whether adopting the playbook of the opposition is really the path to freedom and whether power is worth any cost. 

Silas the Uninvited
by Derek J. Snow, directed by Daryl Harris

Silas tells the all-too-familiar story of a Black man in rural Louisiana who has just been lynched by a mob in 1930, yet finds himself mysteriously alive. In the events to follow, he is confronted with a choice to live again in another time as a Black Man in America and deal with some of the many complicated struggles with race and time that have always plagued this country.