Jonathan Marten — A Not So Brief History

Jonathan Marten (known to close friends and intimates as Yoni, (the Hebrew diminutive for Jonny), was born on a hot August day in New York City, to best-selling author Jacqueline Marten and theatrical attorney/producer Albert E. Marten.  Legend has it, he came out of his mother’s womb tap dancing and singing Al Jolson songs, although the veracity of this cannot be verified.

His career in the entertainment industry started at the tender age of five, when Jonathan began singing at children’s birthday parties — he wasn’t asked to, they just couldn’t stop him, a situation that persists to this very day.

After a rather innocuous high school period, Jonathan moved on to Boston’s Emerson College where, much to his parent’s chagrin, he was actually encouraged in his desire to pursue an acting career. During his tenure at Emerson, he appeared in roles as varied as Moonface Martin in Anything Goes; The Id (no acting necessary), in a comedy entitled Annoyed With Freud (which he co-wrote); and as a ventriloquist’s dummy (some might say, type-casting) in a rather typically bizarre college production entitled The Penal Colony.

Eager to begin his career, as well as work with “Masters of the Craft,” Jonathan cut his college career short, returning home to NYC where he began studying at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. There, he studied with both John Strasberg and the revered Master himself, a man Jonathan has come to describe as somewhat akin to Attila the Hun, if you can imagine Attila in the guise of a benign-looking Jewish grandfatherly type.

Around that same time, with a group of high school and college friends, Jonathan also started his first professional stage company, where he added Producer and Director to his already (weakly) established credits as actor and writer.

Meanwhile, frighteningly aware of the pitfalls of a career in the performing arts, Jonathan’s parents pleaded with their second son, to find a safe back-up career, “just in case this acting thing” didn’t work out. Ever the dutiful child, Jonathan thought deeply about what he might do as a back-up career. Suddenly, like a flash of lightning, inspiration hit, and Jonathan began frequenting open mike nights at various NYC comedy clubs. However, realizing he much preferred team sports (and was far better at them) to solo ones, Jonathan soon decided he was better suited to a life in the theatre than one in smoky, heckler and drunk-filled, comedy clubs.

Jonathan left the world of the Strasbergs, when offered a role at a dinner theatre outside of Baltimore, a job that was soon followed by his first Equity roles, in National Tours of the musicals Godspell (where he quickly learned why you do not hand a hammer to a union techie — screw Mickey Rooney and those “let’s put a show on in the barn” productions) and Grease.

When those tours ended, Jonathan once again returned to NYC, ready to conquer his hometown, hopefully before it conquered him.

In the years since, with a career as varied and schizoid as an Escher print, Jonathan has worked as actor, writer, director, video editor and producer (many times combining three or four of those titles at the same time) in theatre, film and television. As a director, Jonathan has more than 50 NYC and regional stage productions to his credit. He is also the writer/director of the short-subject film, The Line Between, already screened at two popular NYC film festivals. He also directed the Off Broadway stage production of his wife, Tanya’s, erotic romantic comedy, Euphoric Tendencies (which he also appeared in).

Because he insists on at least a few of his acting credits being listed (go figure), Jonathan was seen in a recurring (if insignificant) role on the ABC soap opera The Edge of Night, and on the sitcom, Spin City, opposite Michael J. Fox. He also had the starring role of Nick (a defrocked priest — perfect casting for a nice Jewish boy) in a non-picked up pilot entitled In The Balance. He was also seen in the Family Channel movie, Mother’s Day, with Malcolm Jamal Warner and Jose Ferrer (Mother’s Day was also notable in that Jonathan was — for the first time — joined on-screen by his actor brothers Seth and Ethan, who also had roles in the film, as well as older brother, writer-producer Richard Marten, who made a cameo appearance). Some of Jonathan’s other film appearances include the feature Eddie, opposite Whoopi Goldberg (also featuring his brother, Ethan), Woody Allen’s Celebrity, and Stepmom, with Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts. Most recently he has had featured roles in the indie films, Remedy and Eyes of the Roshi, opposite Eric Roberts.

His most recent stage appearance was in the Off Broadway production of Euphoric Tendencies. Other roles played on New York and regional stages include Lenny Bruce in Julian Barry’s Lenny, an award-winning performance as Roy Cohn in Tony Kushner’s Angels In America: Millennium Approaches, Arnold Epstein in Biloxi Blues, Mozart in Amadeus, Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Drew in Eastern Standard, Vito in P.S. Your Cat Is Dead, and the lead role of Fred in the NYC premiere of The Christmas Carol Conspiracy: Scrooge’s Revenge. Additional musical roles include appearances in Personals, and as Fagin in Oliver.

As a writer, Jonathan is the creator and co-author (with his friend, Joe Doyle, and wife Tanya) of a screenplay entitled, The Reel Life, satirizing the film industry, which was set to be shot in 2018, but is currently in turnaround. Jonathan also spent six years as writer, columnist, critic and Editor-In-Chief of Onstage Magazine, an arts & entertainment monthly based in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Among his teaching credits, Jonathan has taught Advanced Scene Study and Audition Technique for Theatre, Film & Television, for both NYC’s Creative Acting Co., as well as the Actors Repertory Theatre (where he continues to exercise his control freak nature as Artistic Director).

During 2012-13, and again in early 2020, Jonathan traveled to numerous locations throughout the United States working with his three brothers, Richard, Seth and Ethan, on the documentary film, White Buffalo: An American Prophecy. He not only appeared on-camera (as himself) in White Buffalo, Jonathan also shot and edited several of the film’s segments, including an interview with Arby Little Soldier, Great Great Great Grandson of legendary Sioux Medicine Man, Sitting Bull.

Currently, Jonathan is co-owner, along with his wife, Tanya, of Soular Films, an independent film company, currently based in the Metro-Washington, DC area. Soular Films is co-producing The Reel Life, with Virginia’s Wave4M Studios. Still in development is the feature film version of Euphoric Tendencies, which Soular hopes to produce in 2021.

On a more personal note, like many men of short stature (Dr. Evil, Yosemite Sam and Eric Cartman, to name but three), Jonathan has a superficial warmth and charm that deceive many. Underneath, however, lurks a demented sadist, capable, in private, of unspeakable deeds. We suspect his secret ambition is world domination. We can only be grateful he has Tanya, who continues doing her best to prevent this would-be disaster…at least, for now.