Joseph Megel focuses on developing and directing new plays and works for theatre, film, and video. He is an artist in residence in Performance Studies at the University of North Carolina’s Department of Communication.
Joseph is the founder and Artistic Director of the Process Series: New Works in Development, now in its ninth year. He is also Artistic Director of StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance.
His most recent directing credits include Howard L. Craft’s Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green for StreetSigns Center at HERE Arts Center in New York City and in Chapel Hill, which received a critics' pick distinction in the New York Times and year-end rave reviews,
Joseph holds an MFA from the University of Southern California, an M.A. from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and a Bachelors degree from Northwestern University.
Joseph talks about his dedication to diversity and social justice, collaborating with playwrights on directing new plays, the thrills and letdowns of bringing new plays to off-broadway, and best tips for presenting staged readings!
time-stamped show notes:
- 00:33 – Marc introduces the podcast. Click to Subscribe to Talking Theater.
- 00:45 – Marc welcomes Joseph Megel and shares about Joseph's background
- 02:19 – Joseph tries to bring what he’s learned from the theatre into the university, in performance studies
- 02:29 – Being in performance studies, he has been involved in less traditional works, many pertaining to issues of social justice
- 03:21 – Recently, Joseph developed ethnographic research into a play about Russian people with disabilities
- 03:53 – He always tries to work with playwrights to make the performance as effective as possible
- 04:35 – The Process Series worked with the university's Southern Oral History Program
- 05:06 – They have partnered with the Southern Oral History Program to create different pieces
- 05:39 – They made a full-length piece, The Black Pioneer Project
- 06:48 – When people see their own history performed, they feel like everyone should see it
- 07:11 – Filming theater never works out really well
- 09:07 – A video from the “Black Pioneers” led Joseph to develop the play
- 10:23 – This notion of community and finding theatre out of your community is important, but not the only thing—you need to deal with the connections that relate to our time
- 10:35 – Joseph recently directed, A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney
- 11:49 – Marc loves being a new resident of Minneapolis because of his exposure to new works
- 12:37 – Joseph was starting a multi-cultural theater group when he lived in LA
- 13:24 – Joseph met Guillermo Reyes in LA and immediately connected with him
- 14:09 – He brought Men on the Verge of His-Panic Breakdown to Joseph
- 14:23 – They took the play to a Phoenix festival where Guillermo was the actor
- 14:35 – The comedic structure was brilliant – Joseph believes it is Guillermo’s masterpiece
- 14:48 – They looked for an actor and found Felix Pire
- 15:52 – “There was something about the satire and the comic tone that just captured exactly what works and what doesn’t work about American culture—for poor immigrants, for gay people, for outcasts, for people who may not belong”
- 16:51 – The play was comic genius
- 17:34 – Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green was written by Howard Craft, a North Carolina playwright who started as a poet
- 18:06 – Joseph developed a relationship with Howard
- 19:52 – Howard wanted to make a play about the African American male experience in history
- 20:12 – He decided to create 5 different characters in 5 different decades, all named Abel Green
- 21:24 – “The notion of calling this character Abel Green in each incarnation is the brilliance of the play”
- 22:40 – “Those two plays [Freight and Men on the Verge] do talk to one another”
- 23:06 – Message to directors who do staged readings
- 23:25 – You need to release as much ego as possible, to serve the playwright so that they can hear the play they've written
- 23:40 – Be clear as possible with the language
- 23:57 – Stage minimally
- 24:54 – Visually identify what’s going on
- 25:04 – Channel what the play tries to do
- 25:47 – “Your limitation is the expertise of the writer you’re working with”
- 26:30 – Joseph is currently working on a Howard Craft play, The Miraculous and The Mundane
- 26:34 – Next year, Joseph received an NEA grant to direct You Are Dead, You Are Here by Christine Evans
- 28:13 – “Time feels like a cheat”
- 28:36 – The Spot Lightning Round
spot lightning round with Joseph Megel:
- What’s a play that you recommend to be seen or read at least once? – “The Brothers Size by Tarell Alvin McCraney”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Always be honest”
- If you could sing one song on The Voice, what would it be? – “Mary Had a Little Lamb“
- If you had a superpower, what would it be? – “Slowing down time”
- What’s your favorite word? – “Synchronicity”
people and resources mentioned:
- Process Series – dedicated to the development of new and significant works at UNC. Joseph is Artistic Director.
- Harland's Creek Productions – led by Joseph and Elisabeth Lewis Corley, Harland's Creek develops short and feature films
- StreetSigns Center of Literature and Performance – celebrates oral and written traditions through performance
- Elisabeth Lewis Corley – Joseph's partner in all things
- Black Pioneers Project – presented in partnership with UNC Southern Oral History Program
- Guillermo Reyes – playwright of Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown and Miss Consuelo. Link will take you to Episode 21 with Guillermo.
- Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown – directed by Joseph and winner of Off-Broadway Outer Critics Circle Award
- Felix Pire – award-winning and original actor in Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown
- Howard L. Craft – playwright of Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green
- Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green – directed by Joseph and New York Times critics' pick recipient
- Rose Piper – artist of Slow Down Freight Train (shown below) which inspired Howard Craft's Freight
- J. Alphonse Nicholson – original actor in Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green and
- Christine Evans – playwright for You are Dead, You are Here. Awarded NEA grant and directed by Joseph next year
getting in touch with Joseph:
- Musical Clip:
- Show Notes provided by Mallard Creatives
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