2016-2017 Season,  Argonautika

Meet the Director: Janine Sobeck Knighton

by Haley Flanders, dramaturg

Argonautika opens June 2 and runs through June 17 in the Pardoe Theater in the Harris Fine Arts Center. This blog post contains 2 EXCLUSIVE interviews with our show

Janine Sobeck Knighton (Photo Credit: Heather Keil Photography)

Would you like to learn more about the director of BYU’s production of Argonautika? It is none other than UVU dramaturgy and new play works professor, Janine Sobeck Knighton! Janine has worked for BYU as the head of the dramaturgy program and is excited to be working as a director on this fabulous production, which is very close to her heart. This blog contains two EXCLUSIVE interviews with Janine. One by the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) and one by Katie Jarvis and myself.

Interview #1: LMDA

Janine was recently spotlighted on the Facebook page for LMDA: Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas. She was on the board of this prestigious organization. She has a BA, MA, and MFA in theatre. She has published articles on dramaturgy and guided students to win awards and notable mentions at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. She has been dramaturg for both stage and film. Enjoy reading the interview conducted by LMDA on our wonderful director:

LMDA: Who are you?

JSK: The short answer is, I am Janine Sobeck Knighton. The longer answer is that I am (in no particular order) a dramaturg, director, writer, wife, reader, chocolate-lover, travel enthusiast, Italy obsessor, Mormon, and new knowledge seeker.

LMDA: Where do you work?

JSK: I am currently a Assistant Professor of New Work (Playwriting, Screenwriting, and Dramaturgy) at Utah Valley University. Other gigs have included Dramaturgy Specialist at BYU (Brigham Young University) and Dramaturg/Literary Manager at Arena Stage (Washington, D.C.). I do a lot of freelance dramaturgy for both theatre and film and other artistic adventures include being a member of the Artistic Council for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, a Reader for the Sundance Theatre Lab, a member of the Plan-B Theatre Lab and a Developer of the New Play Exchange for the National New Play Network. I am also a former board member of LMDA.

LMDA: What is your favorite part of working as a dramaturg? What is your least favorite?

JSK: I love the moments when inspiration strikes and new ideas are bouncing around and creativity is at its peak. In short, I love the collaboration process. There are certain people who make it a true joy. I’m over defending the right of the dramaturg to be a part of the theatrical process.

LMDA: When did you first realize that you were “dramaturging,” or when did you first start working as a “dramaturg”?

JSK: I discovered dramaturgy during my undergraduate studies. I had gone to college as a history teaching major, but couldn’t ignore the siren call of the theatre department. So I switched majors without having any idea of what I would do. I didn’t want the life on an actor, I wasn’t interested in working backstage, and, at the time, directing terrified me. Then I discovered dramaturgy in one of my theatre history classes and it was like the stars aligned. I couldn’t believe that there was this job in the theatre that encompassed everything I was interested in and that I hadn’t even known it existed.

LMDA: What theatre tome on your shelf couldn’t you live without?

JSK: Whatever script I am currently working on. Most recently that has been 8 new plays for a 10-minute play festival at UVU, Peter and the Starcatcher (the annotated version – thank you Ken Cerniglia and Disney Theatrical) at the Hale Center Theatre Orem, and Mary Zimmerman’s Argonautika, which I’m actually directing.

Peter and the Starcatcher at the Hale Center Theatre Orem (Photo Credit: Suzy Tucker Oliveira)
“Peter and the Starcatcher” at the Hale Center Theatre Orem (Photo Credit: Suzy Tucker Oliveira)

Interview #2:  Argonautika dramaturgs (Haley Flanders and Katie Jarvis)

HF: Why did you choose to direct Argonautika

JSK: I first saw Argonautika in 2008 when Mary Zimmerman brought her company to Washington D.C.s Shakespeare Theatre Company. I was nearing the end of my first year at Arena Stage and trying to decide if I was supposed to continue working in the theatre. I remember the lights coming up at the end of the show and feeling like I couldn’t stop smiling. The whole experience was magical and I sat in my seat thinking “This is what I love about theatre. This is why I do theatre. And this is the type of theatre that I want to create.” I’ve been wanting to work on the show ever since. I love the epic journey that we go on with Jason and his crew. I love the creative way that we get to tell all the many aspects of the story. And I love the imagination the script forces us to have. It’s beautiful, hilarious, and very poignant – which is hard to find in one script.

HF: What have you enjoyed most about directing this show so far? 

JSK: The rehearsal process for this show has been joyful. I love working with the cast. They have such energy, passion and dedication to the show. It’s been delightful to see what all our creative minds put together can produce. I also love hearing the ideas of the production team. All of the designers have made such amazingly creative choices and it’s fascinating to see how their interpretations of the text makes the world of our story come alive. This show demands a lot of creative collaboration, which is exactly how I prefer to work.

Many members of the “Argonautika” cast

KJ: How are you making the show family friendly when it deals with such intense themes?

JSK: While there are visual elements for the whole family – creative use of the actors’ bodies, amazing puppets, crazy costumes, and the sheer the fun of watching 16 actors play over 50 characters – it is my hope that this show will spark conversation among family members. The script asks some very interesting questions about fate, destiny, and the role of a “hero”. It flips our traditional idea of a “hero’s journey” on its head, and looks at the consequences of the actions that we take. Yes, some of the themes are intense. But I hope they are presented in a way that makes anyone who sees it –  families included – want to talk about it afterward. And if it causes a family to read a book about Greek mythology together, so much the better.

Stay tuned for “meet the cast” blogs and much more. Thanks for reading!


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