Photo of Justin Borack
Photo of Justin Borack

Interview with 2022 Broadway Licensing Scholarship Recipient Justin Borack

Broadway Licensing provides $5,000 a year for a student at West Virginia University in partnership with West Virginia Public Theatre to produce original work. The scholarship is an award that was created by Sean Cercone (click here to see his interview) to encourage young artists to produce new works.

Interviewer: Hello Justin!! Thanks for joining us! Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

Justin: Sure! My name is Justin Borak and I’m currently an MFA Acting Student at West Virginia University. Over the last four years, I was a comedy writer in Chicago and that is kinda where this whole “play about comedy writers” idea came from.

Interviewer: Amazing. Congratulations on winning this year’s 2022 Broadway Licensing Scholarship. That is a wonderful accomplishment. What made you want to enter the competition? Did you already have an idea in mind for it?

Justin: Thank you. When I was looking at grad schools, WVU drew me in with this grant competition and their connection to Sean Cercone from the start. Also, with WVPT premiering new work each year it made someone who considers themself a writer/performer instead of an actor like myself way more excited about Morgantown. I have always been a fan of plays that seem like a simple story surrounded by characters with staggeringly different perspectives kinda like Bad Jews by Josh Harmon, or The Minutes by Tracy Letts. Well, basically anything by Tracy Letts. Both those shows also turn up the intensity a ton in the third act and that is kinda what I’m doing through the eyes of comedy writers.

Interviewer: Can you give us a brief overview of your project or what your story is?

Justin: The play follows 5 comedy writers who are brought into a conference room and are told to write a late-night monologue as a final callback for a comedy writing job. The group is brought in by a guy with a white coat and unbeknownst to them, are constantly being watched. And then the tension continues to rise as they realize their differing perspectives don’t match well with constantly talking about politics. I like to think of it as a “slaughterhouse thanksgiving”.

Interviewer: That sounds incredibly entertaining. Can you tell me a little bit about what the process was like coming up with that? Where did it stem from?

Justin: I’ve been in some different writer’s rooms in Chicago with some wonderful people I love very much. I later realized all of us with leaning the same way which made writing political satire easy. I started to think about what it would be like to write comedy with my uncle and then I started to play with different perspectives more and more. 

Interviewer: What has been your biggest obstacle with this project so far and how have you overcome it?

Justin: I am still writing so…writing. Shifting from writing Sketch/Late-Night to playwriting has been an obstacle I’m excited to get over but still working on. Writing long form while keeping the jokes at a super high volume is tough but it’s a bit easier writing a play that is literally all about jokes. 

Interviewer: Keep writing and shifting! That’s what we have to do! When can we expect to see it and where?

Justin: After a week long-rehearsal process, we will be putting up a public staged-reading in the Falbo Theatre at WVU on April 22nd and 23rd at 7:30pm.

Interviewer: What else should we know about your project?

Justin: The play has spots called, OPEN JOKE SECTIONS, which are going to be filled every show by either the production team or a local comedian writing topical two-line jokes. If a production team wants to do the show but can’t afford to hire a comedian and doesn’t know how to write jokes themselves, the forward of the play is a step-by-step guide to writing a two-line joke written by myself and Comedy Writing Veteran, Howard Johnson. I’m just excited to have found a way to make each production of the show topical and current, give people a reason to come back! I hope you enjoy the show!

The production of “A Writer’s Room” by Justin Borak will be a result of West Virginia Public Theatre in partnership with the WVU School of Theatre and Dance and Broadway Licensing. For updates on all things happening at WV Public Theatre, follow us on social media platforms @wvpublictheatre.

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