Playwright Jonathan Spector ’97 Learned How to “Relentlessly” Pursue His Passion at New College of Florida

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- by Abby Weingarten

Spector graduated from New College of Florida in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in theatre and literature, and his well-rounded academic trajectory ultimately helped him pursue his creative path.

To share these insights with students, Spector is giving two on-campus talks—one about Eureka Day and another about theatre careers—at 1 and 2 p.m. Fri. May 13 in the Black Box Theater. Both discussions are sponsored by the Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies area of concentration at New College.

“There is no career path in playwriting; it’s not even a career in any real sense, even for those of us making a living at it. This means that anyone who has had any success has carved their own idiosyncratic path,” said Spector, who now lives in Oakland, California. “This isn’t unique to writing. I see and admire it in so many of my New College alum friends who have been out in the world doing remarkable things over the past two decades. Nobody was following a map. They were all just stumbling forward in pursuit of what was meaningful to them.”

What was meaningful to Spector was storytelling, and that is evident in Eureka Day, which will be featured until June 4 at the Asolo Rep under the direction of Bianca LaVerne Jones. A New York Times Critic’s Pick, the play’s premise is as follows:

“An illness is spreading through the progressive and painstakingly accepting Eureka Day School—and it’s more than the mumps. When the outbreak threatens to become an epidemic, it’s a race to see what will destroy this community first: the disease or each other. Despite the safe-space mentality, gluten-free scones from the local bakery, and open marriages that have moved beyond monogamy, secrets and lies still run rampant and childhood vaccinations ignite fury. An explosive comedy that skewers sanctimony and the nature of our politics, Eureka Day asks: When does ‘us’ become ‘them’?”

To delve further into this story, New College offered a dynamic dramaturgy workshop for students (with staff from the Asolo Rep) on April 25.

In the workshop, students collaborated with professional theatre artists to take a closer look at one of the scenes from Eureka Day, while actively discussing the major themes of the script and the production. The workshop was taught by Lauren Jackson (assistant director for Eureka Day), Elizabeth Guilbert (education coordinator and dramaturg for the Asolo Rep’s touring show), and Gaby Rodriguez (a community engagement associate).

Eureka Day is just one part of Spector’s playwriting portfolio, which also includes This Much I KnowBest AvailableIn From The ColdSiesta Key., and Good. Better. Best. Bested. Spector is a recipient of the Will Glickman Award, the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award and the Rella Lossy Award. He is a Playwrights’ Center core writer, a MacDowell fellow, an Ingram New Works fellow, an Ithaca College New Voices fellow, and a Playwrights Foundation resident playwright alum.

On returning to Sarasota and seeing Eureka Day take the stage in his college town, Spector said: “It’s wild and very moving. Asolo was the first place I encountered professional theatre artists. I was the assistant director for a play in the conservatory my last year at New College, so it’s thrilling to come back and see a play of mine on that same stage.”

It is equally thrilling for Spector to return to his alma mater as a mentor and speaker. He recalls the mentorship he received while he was a student—working closely with late professors John McDiarmid and John Moore.

“John McDiarmid always brought a rigorous critical inquiry to work, and John Moore had this overwhelmingly boisterous enthusiasm for intellectual ideas (both are crucial for an artist, as the process of creation is very much a constant toggling back and forth between these two poles),” Spector said. “But, if I’m being fully honest, I learned more from my fellow students than I did from any professor or class.”

In Spector’s opinion, New College is a prime institution for nurturing creative types, and he is proof.

“It reminds me of this line from Annie Dillard’s wonderful book, The Writing Life: ‘A writer looking for subjects asks not what he loves best, but what only he alone loves at all,’” Spector said. “New College was the rare place that insisted you find the thing that you alone love, and pursue it relentlessly.”

For more information on Eureka Day, visit

Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.