Jacob Juntunen, like most Reedies, does a lot of writing. Unlike the rest of us, what he writes gets accepted into prestigious playwriting workshops taught by Pulitzer prize-winning playwrights like Edward Albee (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?). In 1996, Juntunen's first semester at Reed, he submitted a play to Albee, who is considered the major American exponent of the theatre of the absurd and who teaches three classes each spring at the University of Houston. Hundreds of plays are submitted each year. About 10 are accepted. Where Hebrus Wanders, Juntunen's first play, was one of the 10. So, after one semester at Reed, he applied for a leave of absence, drove to Houston, and spent the spring studying under Albee.
This spring, Juntunen once again made the drive to Texas, this time to have his new play, Screwscotch, professionally staged by Albee. This is quite impressive. Juntunen agrees, then back-pedals: "You can't quote me saying I'm impressive. I'll sound pompous. Strike all pomposity from the record." Pomposity duly removed, Juntunen was nonetheless "very excited" about an opportunity to work with Albee again.
Juntunen applied to Reed after graduating from Clackamas Community College in 1996. At Clackamas, Juntunen decided he was a playwright. "I've been writing since first grade," he says, "I'd written short stories, poetry, a very bad first draft of a first novel--the usual." But after taking a class from noted Portland playwright Susan Mach, "it became obvious that I was supposed to be writing plays." He credits Mach with much of his success so far: "She was very influential; everyone who wants to be a playwright should take a class from her."
It was at Clackamas that Juntunen found out about Albee's University of Houston class. "He came to give a lecture and conduct a workshop at Clackamas," Juntunen explains, "and he mentioned in passing the classes he taught at Houston. I already admired his work--it's like Beckett in your living room--and I was impressed with how he critiqued during the workshop. So during the question and answer period I stood up and I said, 'How does one get into this class?' And he looked me in the eye and my knees quaked and he said, 'Practically, or theoretically?' And I said, 'Practically?', and he said, very patiently, 'Write a play.' So I did."