ED2022 Interviews ED2022 Theatre

Jonathan Tipton Meyers: We Are Traffic – An Uber Adventure

By | Published on Friday 5 August 2022

One place where one person storytelling shows are very much at home is the Edinburgh Fringe – we see and hear about lots of them every year – and one of those that piqued my interest this time, as soon as I heard about it, was ‘We Are Traffic’, which is on at Assembly Rooms throughout the Festival. 

The show is by Jonathan Tipton Meyers, a US-based writer and actor, who tells his own story of working as an Uber driver, and it sounds like a really promising piece of work. 

I arranged a chat with Jonathan to find out more about the play and the creative behind it.  

CM: Can we start by talking about the content of ‘We Are Traffic’. What story does it tell?
JTM: It’s the story of me. How I became an Uber driver to pay my mortgage after my business collapsed and my girlfriend moved out at the same time.

From navigating LA’s 503 square miles and ‘relationships’ with 10,000+ strangers, I regained my faith in myself and discovered why we don’t feel at home in this amazing place: We segregated everyone by colour 80+ years ago and accidentally separated everyone from each other.

By dismantling mass transit and moving us into cars, we ended up living in our heads, separated from ourselves. When Uber and Lyft invented rideshare, this unique and intimate form of transportation accidentally started bringing us back together. 

CM: What themes are explored through the play? 
JTM: Basically: If separating and pitting us against each other for historic profit and short-term gain led us to where we are now, the fastest route to a solution is proximity. 

CM: Is what we’ll see on stage entirely the truth or are there fictionalised elements?  
JTM: It’s 100% true stories

CM: What made you decide to write a show about these experiences? What made you think it would work as a piece of theatre? 
JTM: This solo show is an accident. It was originally going to be a TV pilot – a la HBO’s ‘High Maintenance’ or ‘Fleabag’. I started a blog and was asked to read from it aloud with other fiction authors, and a friend of mine – the director Matthew Ritchey – said, “Okay, so you’re gonna do that live – just you and a chair”.  From that, I became a ‘storyteller’, which I didn’t know was even a thing. 

CM: How does it feel to share experiences from your own life with an audience of strangers? 
JTM: It’s surreal, cathartic and completely normal. An actor has to believe their character is themselves and what they’re saying are their thoughts, so when I’m in it, it’s the character of ‘me’, with the same demands of honesty and vulnerability.

CM: What made you decide to bring the show to edfringe? 
JTM: It was the next logical step in development.The show is a structured ‘ride’ with all of you in the backseat, and we have an hour-long ‘conversation’ about our evolving ‘relationship’. As it grew, the idea of expanding that conversation was exciting to me and edfringe is the largest potential live audience! 

CM: Have you been to the Festival before? What do you want to get out of your time here?
JTM: This is my first time in this magical place. I knew in my heart that travelling anywhere would inform me about our own very young American identity. I knew I would learn from our ‘elders’. 

CM: Do you plan to take in lots of theatre while you are at the Fringe? What are you looking forward to seeing?
JTM: Once we open, I’ll be seeing as much theatre as I can cram inside my heart. I’m chomping at the bit for many of my own comrades and their US shows, ‘Queen Of Fishtown’, ‘The Elephant In The Room’, ‘Bird’ and ‘Plan V’, to name a few.

I want a taste of the big time stuff – ‘Hamlet’ and ‘She/Her’ – a handful of stand-ups and killer musical shows, ‘Captain Fantastic’ and that Adele show. And hopefully I’ll get my hands dirty on the underbelly and free fringe – the most dynamic creativity is usually in the cracks and crevices.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about your past now? How did you come to be working in the arts and was it a career you always aspired to? What steps did you take to work in this industry?
JTM: I’m a graduate of the American Academy Of Dramatic Arts in NYC, and went to LA to make some money acting to fund my playwriting. I ended up staying even though the industry had no idea what to do with a light skinned black Jew. As my TV writing career was beginning to take off, along comes this play and here we are…in Scotland!

CM: What have been the highlights of your career thus far? 
JTM: Off-Broadway in New York, appearances on network TV, and burgeoning TV pilots in the works. Frankly, this journey that’s just beginning might turn out to eclipse them all. 

CM: What hopes and ambitions do you have for the future? 
JTM: To tell the truth: that we really love each other but that’s not profitable for some and that we can do better. I was blown away this past year by this amazing writer-performer-storyteller-councilwoman Kristina Wong. She manages to seamlessly connect her award-winning, socially conscious stage work with real-life social work on the streets of Los Angeles. That was my intention with the blog four years ago. If I can manifest my own version of that with ‘We Are Traffic’, I will have earned my ‘pints’.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
JTM: A segment of ‘We Are Traffic’ as a short film, and I’ll be finishing pilots on private sector aerospace and growing up in NYC in 1970s, the year Reagan and Thatcher started the ball rolling that snowballed us to now. 

‘We Are Traffic: An Uber Adventure’ was performed at Assembly Rooms at Edinburgh Festival 2022.

LINKS: twitter.com/jtm1964 | www.instagram.com/juggernautmagnum