(This was done a few years ago. The Drama has since ceased publication, but it was an awesome mag while it lasted. For the full explanation, check out www.thedrama.org)
A few weeks ago, I was amid a bad head cold when my friend Matt Rubin asked me to interview Joel from The Drama. Without even thinking about it, I immediately assumed he was speaking about a band, and to add insult to injury, my brain, in its infinitely-clouded medicine head state, somehow confused ‘The Drama’ with ‘The Gossip.’ I like The Gossip’s music, but I always thought that the guy in the band looked like a tool whenever I saw a photo of him. Nonetheless, I was eager to do the interview, so I took on the task without hesitation.
The following morning, I awoke to a clear head, and with my brain free of any mind-altering cold medicine, I realized that Joel Speasmaker was not in a band called The Gossip and that The Drama was not actually a band, but rather a magazine. I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to be interviewing a hipster in senior citizen sunglasses, and much more at ease with Joel and his brand of art, which he’s extravagantly packaged in magazine form for the past few years now.
The Drama, if you’re not familiar with it, is an eclectic mixture of contemporary art, design, photography, and more recently, literature and editorial columns. Joel serves as editor, creative director and publisher, and he somehow manages to publish four packed issues per year, aside from pursuing his own art and freelance work. Basically, Joel and The Drama are living proof that most of us are wasting our lives away taking too much cold medicine and worrying about interacting with hipster musicians. Oh wait, that’s just me. But you get the point. This is Joel Speasmaker; the artist, the magazine publisher and most important of all, the motivator…..
I’ve worked for a BMX magazine for about 7 years now. When people ask me about it, I can tell them why we make it, who it’s aimed at, what purpose we hope to achieve by producing it, and what I want people to take away from reading each issue. So I’m hoping you could answer the same questions about The Drama? Why do you make it? Who is it aimed at? What do you hope to achieve by publishing The Drama? And what do you want people to take away from The Drama when they’re done with the issue?
I’m not really sure exactly “why” I decided to make The Drama, but it is certainly related to the fact that I am not a traditional artist by any means, yet I am constantly inspired and surrounded by them, and publishing a contemporary arts magazine allows me to be a part in this little world of people that I love. I used to include my own work in issues of the magazine and in group shows that I curated, but I have long given up on that, for good reason. The magazine is aimed at anyone interested in the arts. If you look at the magazine you will see that we aren’t restricted to any one type or style or method of art-making. We hope to show the strong relationship between all types of art, whether it be painting, printmaking, comics, photography, illustration, crafts, etc. We then hope for people to take with them this feeling of connection and possibly an appreciation for something they might not have been aware of before. We don’t theme our issues anymore, but we still aim for each issue to have a very “together” feeling; each feature and article is equally as important as the other.
Is there any special meaning behind the name of the magazine?
I wish there was a good story behind the name but there is not. “The Drama” actually began as an art collective, then the magazine was started to promote this group of artists, then the collective aspect was ended and the magazine shifted to focus on and include an international spectrum.
Earlier issues of The Drama seemed to be more thematic, while the newer issues seem to have become more compartmentalized in a traditional magazine kinda way. Is there any reason for the change, and which do you prefer?
I touched on this a bit before… but even though we now have several set sections and departments we still believe that they relate to the overall feeling of the issue. We are also pushing a more stylized layout to the magazine, which simply makes our lives easier, as this is still something done for the love of it and in our free time.
For some reason, I naturally assumed that The Drama was based in either LA or NY. Then I found out it was based in Richmond, VA. How does being removed from my assumed centers of art in the U.S. affect or motivate The Drama?
It definitely motivates me to keep doing what I am doing and hope to make some sort of impact. I’ve never had the desire to live in either LA or NY, but I would be willing to bet that things might be a bit easier to accomplish if I did. But as a home-base Richmond is great. The cost of living is low, the attitude is relaxed, and its very easy to get to where you need to go.
Can you speak about the logistics of self publishing The Drama? Obviously, there’s a ton of thought going into the content, layout and focus of the magazine, but how do you balance the editorial and artistic side with the business side of dealing with printers, selling ads, handling subscriptions and fixing circulation issues? Knowing all too well from personal experience, how the hell do you do it?
I am insanely organized and obsessively controlling. I have to have my hand in everything going on to feel at ease, not because I don’t trust anyone to do it, just because that’s how I like to do things. But for each aspect of the magazine that I work on, whether it be layout, editorial, ad sales, circulation, etc… I have a small group of amazing people that help out as well and make it work. Without them it just wouldn’t. This is where I send my deepest thanks to Travis, Max, Ron, Anna, Matt and Drew in particular.
How did The Drama’s switch to full color printing affect the content featured within?
It’s been amazing to move to full color. Most of the time black & white just doesn’t do justice to the artwork featured, so its been great to allow the artists and contributors to work to their full potential. Our first issue in full color (Issue Five) was practically completely filled with pages of artwork rather than text and articles.
What’s been the most unusual reaction someone’s had after reading The Drama? What’s the most unusual place that The Drama has ended up? (And no, the bathroom does not qualify as an accepted answer here…)
This question is tough, I don’t think I have a good answer for it! I can say that I get a fair amount of phone calls and submissions from people in the actual field of drama, as in theater and performance art. So somehow someone has gotten their hands on a copy, but they apparently aren’t actually reading it…
The Drama isn’t the only thing you pursue. You also do your own freelance design work and run an online store for The Drama. (In Rubin’s words, “He’s a busy fu*king kid.”) Can you elaborate on what keeps you busy aside from The Drama? What’s involved in your day to day life and how does it tie into or out of your magazine work?
The Drama is actually what keeps me busy, and freelance is how I make a living. But doing freelance allows me to publish a magazine and run an online store… but that means I have pretty much zero free time. Which is how I like it.
Sadly, The Drama ceased publishing after issue nine in November of last year. But you can still obtain copies of each issue by checking out www.thedrama.org