Interview: Jonathan Slavin's High on Introducing Us to FREUD ON COCAINE

The world premiere of Howard Skora’s Freud on Cocaine opens September 8th @ the Whitefire Theatre

By: Sep. 04, 2023
Interview: Jonathan Slavin's High on Introducing Us to FREUD ON COCAINE

Interview: Jonathan Slavin's High on Introducing Us to FREUD ON COCAINE

The world premiere of Howard Skoras Freud on Cocaine opens September 8, 2023, at the Whitefire Theatre. Howard also directs this comedy based on Freud’s Cocaine Papers with the cast of Jonathan Slavin, Barry Brisco, Kim Hopkins, Aaron LaPlante, Sara Maraffino, Sigute Miller and Amy Smallman-Winston. Jonathan graciously carved out some time from his rehearsals as the titular character Freud to answer a few of my analyzing queries.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Jonathan!

Well, thank you so much for asking me!

What first attracted you to portray Dr. Sigmund Freud?

Honestly, I initially pay much more attention to material than I do to medium or character, and Howard Skora’s play is beautifully written and challenging and funny and provocative in all the right ways, and I was wildly attracted to the piece itself. Then, beyond that, the idea of playing a person who’s contributions to psychology are so much a part of our societal fabric was fascinating, if not somewhat daunting. Also, I tend to approach everything starting from my own identity and queer perspective, and exploring that aspect of Freud, which is pretty rarely talked about, felt like it mattered and really lent itself to my very non-traditional portrayal of a very traditional man.

Interview: Jonathan Slavin's High on Introducing Us to FREUD ON COCAINE What characteristics of Dr. Freud did you immediately relate to?

I’m going to sound like an emotional disaster in my answer to this question, and let’s face it, I kind of am, but I think Freud’s desire to be seen and successful and relevant is something that most artists can relate to. He had this overwhelming fear of not being enough, and of not mattering, and I think so many of us were awkward weirdos who went into this industry because we hoped it would make us feel meaningful, particularly when emerging from youthful struggles. Or was that just me? Just me. And Freud. Great. Told you I’m a mess. But so is Freud!

What of his traits unlike yours did you have to stop and analyze to depict Dr. Freud?

Freud really weaponized his maleness and society’s contempt of women in a way that was very challenging for me. Although I usually pass as male, I identify as non-binary, and I’ve also worked really hard in my life to be as anti-sexist as possible, though I am sure I fail, but leaning into and playing the idea that women were prone to hysteria and weakness in a way that their male counterparts were not was a bit of a potential roadblock. But I’m not an actor who feels like they need to play likable people all the time, so it really was ultimately just about accepting that Freud was, in this arena, not remotely ahead of his time.

Interview: Jonathan Slavin's High on Introducing Us to FREUD ON COCAINE In researching your character for his backstory, did your opinion of Dr. Freud change in any way? What did you know of Dr. Freud before being cast in this play?

I studied psychology in high school and during my incredibly brief stint in college, but I didn’t really have more than a layman’s knowledge of Freud. I think in my research I probably developed more empathy for him. He came from such a lack of and ultimately was just trying to make a name for himself because of his own insecurity. Also discovering that, whether he was ultimately queer or not, he had decidedly queer experiences and relationships was cool and edifying, and definitely not something I was taught in my high school psychiatry class. Wonder why that is?

Interview: Jonathan Slavin's High on Introducing Us to FREUD ON COCAINE What would your thee-line pitch for Freud on Cocaine be?

Freud on Cocaine is a comedic, genre-defying play about what happens when the founding father of psychoanalysis becomes a raging cocaine addict. It’s also, to quote the play itself:… a love story; Freud’s love of his wife, Martha, his love of his best friend, Ernst, and his torrid love affair with cocaine.” Oh, and there’s disco.

Have you worked with any of this cast or creatives before?

I have not. I hope to work with them again, as they are all jaw-droppingly talented and delightful and sexy, and I am madly in love with all them. But don’t tell them I said that. Their egos are out of control.

In an alternate universe, under what circumstances and in what venue would the characters you’ve played Dr. Freud and Home Front’s Edward Glimmer interact?

Interview: Jonathan Slavin's High on Introducing Us to FREUD ON COCAINE I sort of love this question. Perhaps Edward would finally seek out some therapeutic help in dealing with his PTSD from the war and would end up under Dr. Freud’s care. In spite of the therapeutic parameters of their relationship, they would, for a time, fall desperately in love with each other, and their torrid affair would bring them both to a place of healing and self-acceptance. Wait, should we write this play? I’m calling Warren Leight and Howie Skora the moment this interview is over.

Was Home Front in January this year your first time on a Los Angeles stage?

It was not, actually. As weird as it sounds, I actually moved to Los Angeles from New York to do a play in 1994, Larry Kramer’s The Destiny of Me, at International City Theatre. It was a role I desperately wanted to play, and I was otherwise committed when the New York production launched and couldn’t even audition for it, so when the opportunity came to play a young Larry Kramer on this coast, I jumped at it. Since then, I have popped in and out of a few productions. In 2011 and 2012, I did Matthew Leavitt’s hilariously painful relationship play The Boomerang Effect at the Odyssey and then the Zephyr, and that was an astoundingly good experience.

You have been busy with television and film. What aspects of the theatre entice you to perform live?

Interview: Jonathan Slavin's High on Introducing Us to FREUD ON COCAINE I first want to say that I consider myself beyond lucky to have gotten to do so much work in film and television. It’s where some of my best relationships were formed, and I’m really proud of a lot of the work I’ve been part of. Theatre is my first love, it’s where I found my voice, and I will always work hard to find a way to return to it. But, like I said, theatre is where this weird, queer misfit first found their voice, and it will always be home to me. Beyond that, though, what I love about theater that’s missing from film and television is that ultimate and unpredictable relationship with the audience. An audience is really the final added character in any production. It’s a bit of a diva doing a star turn, it skips rehearsal and arrives just for performance, and it’s also the character that’s most prone to change from night to night. That is thrilling and terrifying and I will never get enough of it.

Is there a classical theatrical role that you’d love to sink your teeth into?

I do solemnly swear that I will play a non-binary Mama Rose someday. Also, having played Young Ned/Alexander in The Destiny of Me when I was young, it would be really interesting to take on the older Ned role someday. And to those who would argue that neither The Destiny of Me or Gypsy are classical, I say they are for me. For me! For me!!

Any theatrical projects you’re pursuing while Hollywood is closed down?

Yes, I’m actually lucky enough to be getting ready to work with Matt Leavitt again, early next year, on a beautiful new piece of his about love and grief and obscure Jewish holidays. It’s a lovely four-character piece, the other actors in it are stupidly talented, directed by the inimitable Joel Zwick, and I cannot wait to do it. Additionally, I’m writing a one-person show that I hope will be funny and dramatic and queer and probably a little depressing. Because that’s sort of my brand.

Interview: Jonathan Slavin's High on Introducing Us to FREUD ON COCAINE Do you think the astrophysicist Jonathan Slavin ever gets your mail by mistake? Or have you gotten his?

I mean, I barely graduated from high school so if someone is writing to me hoping for an astrophysicist, I fear they will be sorely disappointed. If he ever gets my mail, I hope it’s just the good stuff and none of my hate mail. Astrophysicists are notoriously fragile.

Thank you again, Jonathan! I look forward to meeting your Dr. Freud.

Thank you! Come see one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done! Yay!

For tickets to the live performances of Freud on Cocaine through November 4, 2023; click on the button below:



Los Altos Youth Theatre to Present THE ADDAMS FAMILY Beginning Next Month Photo
Los Altos Youth Theatre to Present THE ADDAMS FAMILY Beginning Next Month

LAYT will present THE ADDAMS FAMILY running October 27-29 and November 2-4. Get event and ticket information here!

Circa: Queer Histories Festival to Present Michael Kearns Solo Show in October Photo
Circa: Queer Histories Festival to Present Michael Kearns' Solo Show in October

Michael Kearns’ sixteenth solo show, It Must Be Him: A Genderful Musical Memoir, has been chosen as part of the line-up of the inaugural Circa: Queer Histories Festival with a one-night only performance on Wednesday, October 11, 2023 at 8:00pm.

Interview: Eli Bauman Discusses Return of 44 – THE unOFFICIAL, unSANCTIONED OBAMA MU Photo
Interview: Eli Bauman Discusses Return of 44 – THE unOFFICIAL, unSANCTIONED OBAMA MUSICAL

Eli Bauman’s 44 - THE unOFFICIAL, unSANCTIONED OBAMA MUSICAL re-opens October 13, 2023 at The Bourbon Room (with previews beginning October 11th). Eli himself directs his reimagined satire of the Obama campaign with the cast led by T.J. Wilkins as Barack and Shanice as Michelle , with Kevin Bailey, Larry Cedar, Chad Doreck, Kelley Dorney, Summer Nicole Greer, Jane Papageorge, Dino Shorté , Jeff Sumner and Michael Uribes. Understudies include Marqell Edward Clayton and Herman Cain, Scott Kruse as Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham.

One-Act Theatre Festival Challenges Audiences To THINK & IMAGINE Photo
One-Act Theatre Festival Challenges Audiences To THINK & IMAGINE

Fierce Backbone presents an exciting one-act theatre festival challenging audiences to think and imagine. Don't miss this captivating event in Los Angeles.


Catalina Jazz Club (10/15-10/15)Tracker
#repshow# in[i]# Medea Unleashed
The Count's Den (10/15-11/12)Tracker
#repshow# in[i]# Andrew Lippa's Wild Party
The Jaxx Theatre (10/07-10/28)Tracker
#repshow# in[i]# Zarathustra!
Avalon Hollywood (10/22-10/22)Tracker PHOTOS VIDEOS
#repshow# in[i]# LACO Presents Pianist Anne-Marie McDermott in Chamber Music Program Lineage: Coleridge-Taylor + Chausson
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (9/30-10/01)
#repshow# in[i]# Rent the Perfect Sports Car Show
Breathing Storytellers (4/28-5/03)
#repshow# in[i]# Hot Coffee Comedy Hour
The Broadwater Second Stage (2/25-10/28)
#repshow# in[i]# The Andrews Brothers
Theatre Palisades (9/01-10/01)
#repshow# in[i]# Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Being Alive with Adam Ben-David on Piano
Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at Segerstrom Center for the Arts (11/02-11/02)
#repshow# in[i]# Cori Cable Kidder's Holiday Spectaular: A 1940s Christmas Revue
Sierra Madre Playhouse (11/24-12/23)

Recommended For You