José Zayas was born in Puerto Rico and graduated from Harvard and Carnegie Mellon Universities. Jose has held residencies at numerous theaters including the Ensemble Studio Theatre and INTAR. He is a Drama League Fellow, an alumnus of Lincoln Center’s Director's Lab and Soho Rep Writer/Director's Lab, and has received numerous fellowships including the Phil Killian, Kenneth Frankel, John Pasquin, a Van Lier and a Rockefeller Brothers Fund grant. He was a participant of the 2009-2011 NEA/TCG Career Development Program for Directors and is a lifetime member of EST. He is a multiple HOLA, ACE and Ovation Award winner. Jose's directing credits include work at MTC, American Repertory Theater, Moscow Art Theatre, Repertorio Espanol, Cherry Lane, Denver Center, HERE, PS 122, 59E59, the Flea, the Ohio Theatre, The Brick, La MaMa and many others.
Now Jose is directing terraNOVA Collective production of Robert Atkins' P.S. Jones and The Frozen City. The World as we know it is long gone. Appetite and hubris have divided the world in three. Our hero, the diminutive and unassuming P.S. Jones, dreams of visiting The Frozen City, a utopian world just visible beyond the forbidden Burning Waste. Only thing worse than knowing he’ll never set foot in The Frozen City is finding out that his handsome and incurably vapid brother is about be deified there on account of being so darn pretty. Soon after his brother’s departure, P.S. stumbles upon something that will change his life forever. What will he do when the fate of all three worlds rests in his hand?
P.S. Jones and The Frozen City plays at The New Ohio Theatre (154 Christopher Street, between Greenwich and Washington Street, through December 23. Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a director? I actually started out as a writer. My junior year in college a friend of mine approached me about directing a play by Canadian playwright Ann-Marie Macdonald called Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). The experience was so amazing and unique that I decided to continue as a director. I found that I enjoyed collaboration; writing could get very lonely, but as a director every choice I made involved a joint effort and a very active way of storytelling. I didn’t see a play until I was 17 and it wasn’t until I was at Harvard and seeing productions at the American Repertory Theatre that I realized that I had a passion for the stage. The directors who inspired me as a young artist were Ron Daniels, David Wheeler, Andre Serban, Andei Belgrader, Robert Woodruff and Marcus Stern.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Oh there are so many. But here’s whom I’ve been thinking about lately. Actors: Michael Shannon, Marin Ireland, Elizabeth Marvel and Reed Birney. Playwrights: Christopher Durang, Annie Baker, David Henry Hwang, Jose Rivera, Lynn Nottage, Quiara Alegria Hudes and Adam Bock.
3. What attracted you to want to do direct P.S. Jones and The Frozen City? Rob Askins wrote an impossible play and I love impossible plays. Plays that one reads and thinks "how the hell is anyone supposed to do that on stage?" P.S. Jones is a comic fantasy, a heartfelt paean to adolescence and everything Geek. It has huge effects, unusual characters (A giant green man, a hand with a mind of its own, a spider woman made of glass, a ghostly gunslinger, cannibals, mutants and fire breathing tigers), beautiful vistas and impossible stage directions. To do this on a small stage and on a budget is an enormous and thrilling challenge. Rob’s play is so many things, a mash-up of genres, styles and concerns. It is low brow, cerebral, blunt, vulgar and sweetly charming. I was struck by Rob’s unfettered imagination, his fabulous language and his willingness to revel in the magic of theater. He wants the audience to dream big and to laugh their asses off.
4. What excites you about working with the terraNOVA Collective? They’re family. Jennifer Conley Darling, the artistic director, has a great eye for new voices and talent and is one of the most open, exciting and talented producers in New York City. The company has created an environment of great safety and joy where we have all been allowed the opportunity to play and experiment.
5. What has been the best part about working with this cast and the writer of the show Robert Askins? Everyone is soooo funny and so creative and so willing to look way stupid or silly in order to make a moment work. The cast is thrilling, diverse, funny and damn dangerous. The designers are risk takers and tireless. And Rob Askins is a mad man and one of the most brilliant collaborators I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. He is so open, receptive and he encourages improvisation from everyone he works with, which allows for a surprisingly rich rehearsal environment.
6. As a director, what is your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show? The moment where you realize that everything you thought was impossible is actually possible and is right in front of you. The moment when the tech starts and you start seeing it all come together. And of course the first moment that someone laughs or cries or gasps and you realize that it’s all working.
7. You have won several awards throughout your career. What does this recognition mean to you? The recognition is nice. It’s nice when critics and your peers recognize the quality of your work as an artist but it’s not why I direct.
8. What have you learned about yourself from being a director? I’m still learning.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? Say yes.
10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Roberto Bolano.
11. Favorite way to spend your day off? A horror movie and a milkshake with my partner.
12. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I wanna fly. But I’d be afraid of hitting a building, the Greatest American Hero terrified me as a kid. The ability to move things with my mind seems more reasonable.