Article By: Piper Hale
Published: Nov 18, 2011
Jacob Mundell, from Denver, Colorado, earned a B.F.A. in dramatic writing and performing arts in 2011 from SCAD Savannah.
Jacob Mundell originally came to SCAD just to pursue a career in acting, but he took on a double major after realizing that the written word is the most influential component of theater for him. "I love to tell stories," says Jacob. "If you just write down an argument, the logic could be succinct and it could be undeniable, but it's not compelling. To get people to invest in what you have to say and want to listen to you, you have to draw them in and entertain them. Playwriting is the same as teaching, but with an understanding of how to reel you in and how to enchant you."
The stories Jacob tells in his writing hinge on social issues and broad ideological themes. His substantial portfolio of work, which ranges from full three-act plays to screenplays, touches on themes like the frantic pace of modern life and the dangers of professional competitiveness. Although Jacob considers his thematic writing to be his strength, he admits that it can sometimes distract him from the story itself. When he first started writing, his emphasis on tackling important issues would sometimes leave his storylines underdeveloped. The analogy Jacob says a professor used to guide him through this problem was that the themes of a play are like icing, but he needed to have a cake, or relatable human drama, to support them.
Jacob says this and other valuable critiques he's received in the program have allowed him to improve on his writing without abandoning his distinctive voice. "At some schools, they apparently just fluff the student up and tell them 'You do your own thing and you have your own personal magic and you go out there and you'll conquer them all,'" says Jacob. 'But I like how the professors here don't fool you. They are conditioning you from day one to have a thick skin and to keep your inspiration under that thick skin." One of his favorite techniques he's learned in the program, Jacob says, is writing scripts less likely to be edited down or changed by production staff. "The more empowered you are to write well, the less your artistic vision will be lost in translation through the process," says Jacob.
Much of the power of Jacob's storytelling stems from his experience developing characters from the other side of the script. Jacob has been acting since he was in high school, when he participated in a theater group for disabled performers. As part of the group, he lent his talents to productions like "The Wiz" and "Urinetown." Jacob was born without a left hand and says collaborating with other actors with disabilities provided him the encouragement he needed to pursue acting as a career.
Since coming to SCAD, Jacob has acted in a range of student films and SCAD productions and has become a well-known and - measuring well over six feet tall - easily spotted figure around campus. He has worked with guest lecturers like Sir Ian McKellan and members of the Upright Citizen's Brigade and has trained in stage combat. Most recently, Jacob had a role in the comedic student-produced web series "Greg Prime," which is still in post-production.
Studying dramatic writing
simultaneously has made Jacob much more versatile in both fields, and he says he constantly seeks out new experiences to enhance this versatility. His second summer at SCAD, he studied abroad in Lacoste
, which he says, "broadened my horizons so much. It was a fairytale countryside setting. As a writer, it was very inspiring. It was two months of reconceptualizing the way you can live a human life."
After his time in Lacoste, Jacob completed an apprenticeship at the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey. The theater company has invited him back to do an internship - what he calls "the next rung up" in the organization - next summer. If this goes well, he hopes he will progress past this final stage of provisional employment and become a member of the company's touring group. Since graduating, Jacob has completed an apprenticeship at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts and is completing a yearlong internship at the Jewish Ensemble Theater before his return to New Jersey next summer. He plans to continue writing plays as he pursues his acting career.