“Adjust to the Procedure” is a new play by writer Jake Shore that was created during the pandemic and designed with Zoom in mind. It takes place in a Manhattan university during the Fall of 2020 where the staff is overwhelmed attempting to follow Covid safety procedures amid suicide threats, immigration issues, and mental health crises that plague both students and faculty. Playing out of the course of two conflict-ridden Zoom meetings, the play’s power is in its realistic ability to transport viewers into the world of higher education at a moment of multiple reckonings.
Jake Shore is a multi-produced and award-wining playwright. He also serves as a teaching professor and the Director of the Academic Advisement Center at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn, thus he is very familiar with the world of academia.
Jake recently discussed his plays and career via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in writing and what most appeals to you about plays?
Jake Shore (JS): I initially got interested in writing because I didn’t have to depend on anybody else. I played guitar and wanted to be in a band but I couldn’t really sing and I couldn’t write songs and I never meshed well musically with the friends who I jammed with. I loved the idea of a band but this is where I developed a distaste for being reliant on others to create anything. The idea that I could hand off a script to actors and sit in the audience and watch was the first thing that drew me to playwriting, and this is still one of the big appeals. To me, going to a truly great play is one of the most life-affirming experiences that there is.
MM: How did you break into the industry and establish yourself?
JS: I got a short story published when I was in grad school by a very small press, and when I graduated another one was published in a literary journal of moderate stature. In terms of playwriting, I’ve been fortunate enough to see 8 of my plays staged in NYC. The first play I did was really just my friend and I horsing around. We rented a hot box of a theater in the Lower East Side in the middle of summer at the 10:30pm slot, two shows. We scrounged the money together. The whole point was really just to have fun. Through that project I got addicted to the whole process, and I learned so much from seeing that script get to the stage. Winning the Overall Excellence in Playwriting Award at the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival was a turning point, and so was having a play at The Flea Theater.
MM: What typically inspires your work? For instance, is there any particular theme or genre that you’re partial to?
JS: I’m inspired and heavily influenced by what I read. I mostly stick to dramas, and thematically I’m all over the place.
MM: You are also a short story writer, so how does that work differ from what you write for the stage?
JS: There’s no collaboration with short stories. Despite my belly aching about not wanting to be reliant on other people, it’s theater that really taught me how to collaborate. With a short story, there’s no room for someone else to breathe life into a character. It’s just me alone in a room. I usually have a sense early on if an idea is suited for the stage or for a short story, or if it’s best for a longer piece of prose.
MM: How did you come up with the idea for “Adjust to the Procedure” and how long did it take to complete?
JS: At the start of the pandemic, I felt pretty defeated. I had a theater project canceled, and the hopes of another play production were ruined, too. At first, I took the position that if I wanted to create a YouTube video, I would just do that without trying to pass it off as a piece of theater. I was just incredibly pissed off about all of it, but I eventually turned a corner. I went into Manhattan for the first time in a while and I was sitting at an outdoor place and thought, am I gonna fight? Or am I gonna lie down? I texed Adam Files, who is playing Kyle in “Adjust The Procedure,” telling him I had an idea for a play. The truth was, I had no ideas. I had nothing. But it was after talking to him a bit more that I started to develop the idea out of not wanting to be a liar. I told him I had something, so then I had to prove it. Sorry for fibbing, Adam.
MM: Was it tough to “write for Zoom”?
JS: It took me months and months to sort out all the elements that were stopping me from writing an online play, but once I turned this corner and accepted the restrictions of Zoom, I committed myself fully, and after that, the play came. I’ve heard the comparison that writing a play is like falling in love, and there’s a lot of truth to that. Once I started this play, I knew very early on that it had legs and it then became a total obsession. For the entire writing duration, it dominated my waking life. Also, I think in a counter-intuitive way, restrictions can bring the best out of an artist. Like Wittgenstein writing in that POW camp. Now, I’m not comparing myself to Wittgenstein, and I’ve never been near a POW camp, but I constantly remind myself of things like this in an attempt to destroy any excuse I have about why I can’t write.
MM: As an academic, does your college work frequently inform your creative writing?
JS: My students inspire me. Teaching is rewarding, and so is advising students. Also, when you’re going to teach a book, you read it in this completely different way. Reading like that has helped my writing.
MM: How many of the issues addressed in this play have you dealt with at your college?
JS: Not too many. The way a college is structured is all in the play, and big general issues are there, but that’s about it.
MM: What is some of the best feedback you’ve gotten about your work?
JS: The best feedback I ever got about my work was in graduate school, all of the things that were wrong with my writing. A stupid, bad critique is absolutely terrible, like venom. I do not like workshopping things with my peers and I never have. But feedback about what isn’t working
from a writer of the highest caliber? That’s like gold. Like diamonds. It’s everything. It’s a way forward. A way to elevate what you’re doing, and it gives you hope that you might actually be able to create something of value.
MM: What other projects are you working on right now and what themes might you like to address in future works?
JS: I have other plays in the drawer, a few short stories I’m working on. I have a novel that I worked on for years that’s collecting dust. I generally start writing the next play when I see the current one close. It’s a way of dealing with it all being over. I’m not sure what the next one will be about. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about anti-Semitism. I’d like to explore that and how accepted it is in America. I had a short story published somewhat recently that’s in part about my Bubby and Zaidie, but I think there’s more to explore in this area.
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
JS: My goal is to be the most talked about writer in the world. Hahaha. Honestly, my ultimate goal as a writer is to write the next one.
The fully realized production of “Adjust to the Procedure” will run February 15 — March 7 on Stellar. Tickets are $10, available at www.SpinCycleNYC.com