Search JMU Web | Find JMU People | Site Index   
 Montpelier Magazine

Digital drama

WHILE MOST PEOPLE will tell you "Don't stress the drama," Jeremy Caleb Johnson ('98) spends his day working with some of the world's most famous, out-of-print or unpublished dramas. On a typical day, Johnson may read or index an anti-slavery play, a period Civil Rights satire or a Langston Hughes script with Hughes' handwritten notes.

Johnson is an editor for Alexander Street Press, a publisher of electronic humanities databases in Alexandria. The publisher brings together traditional publishing, librarianship and software development to create electronic collections including everything from Colonial-era letters to Civil War battlefield diaries to The Wizard of Oz film script. In October, Warner Brothers and ASP signed an agreement to publish more than 100 scripts as part of ASP's American Film Scripts On-line. The database is the largest collection of film scripts ever published and the only electronic collection.

Johnson is project manager for ASP's Asian American Drama and Black Drama database collections. He licenses rights from authors and publishers and indexes plays, manuscripts and other historical items. ASP's humanities and social sciences digital collections are primarily known for letters and diaries, but are becoming an industry leader in drama and film. The ASP Black Drama collection integrates nearly 1,200 rare and hard-to-find plays written from the 1850s to the present by playwrights from North America, English-speaking Africa, the Caribbean and other African Diaspora countries.

"I spend a great deal of time talking with authors, actors, directors and scholars about various plays and productions," says Johnson, an English major, who wrote his senior honors thesis on Asian-American theater history. Johnson's JMU allegiance benefits many students. "I lobbied for an ASP-JMU summer internship program to help groom undergraduates for the field of electronic communication," he says. And for the past three years, he has also guest lectured in JMU English professor Dabney Bankert's Careers in English class.

Johnson's work with the landmark ASP Asian American Drama database includes more than 250 plays, along with related biographical, production and theatrical information. The collection begins with 19th-century works and plans include adding works by contemporary playwrights like Elizabeth Wong and Sung Rno. Learn more about ASP at www.alex anderstreet.com/.

•  Janelle DiOrio ('03)