Who gets to tell your story? Your family, your faith, your friends? Does the past dictate your future? Can you fight Fate? These are the questions Joni must answer, before her life gets swallowed up.
The film JONI & THE WHALE is a contemporary musical adaptation of the scriptural tale from The Book of Jonah. Our modern-day Joni is a freshman in college, trapped between the omnipresent traditions of an overbearing father and the longing to follow in her late-mother’s sorority footsteps. Yet when forced to choose, Joni runs away, determined to write her own story. Her search for freedom and independence leads Joni on a ‘Whale’ of an adventure, full of colorful college characters, mysterious mishaps, and divine self-discovery. In the end, her biblical journey reveals a simple truth: no one writes their story alone; we tell the tale together.
Seeking: - JONI: 18 years old, first-year in college (first week). An only child, she still lives at home with her dad. A wide eyed dreamer, who gets lost in her passions and feels strongly about her intuitions. Joni is focused, determined, and smart, but naively inexperienced on her own. Her mom passed away when she was 5. She wants to represent her family well, in all aspects of life, and she especially keeps mementos of things she feels were important to her Mom, and might prove important to her. The co-ed fraternity/sorority “Lamda Phi” is one of those things, being that her Mom and Dad first met and fell in love at a Phi rush party. Joni keeps on her wall the nostalgic picture of that night when Mom and Dad first met. Joni also still has her Mom’s vintage Phi sweatshirt, which her Mom was wearing in the picture.
- ORCA: principal role, flexible open casting, possible character traits of male-identifying, Jewish, super-duper-senior (6th year, still stuck in college), not “frat-boy”-ish, liked by all, always finds himself in the “friend-zone,” outwardly popular, inwardly insecure, known campus-wide as President of Greek Life.
- HOST OF HOSTS: principal role, flexible open casting, possible character traits of any gender identity, visibly older than the college students, but far from “middle-aged,” an utterly compelling persona, intriguing, confident, animated, playful, aggressive just beneath the surface, while outwardly exuding steady calm, has good movement skills and command of language, the consummate “showman,” without ever being goofy.
- MOM: Mom is Joni's mental manifestation of her deceased mother. Joni imagines Mom often right there beside her, as she was in college -- the age at which Joni sees her in the old keepsake Phi photo on Joni's wall -- so the person playing this character will probably be in their late-teens or twenties. Mom is the idealized version of what Joni imagines her mother to be: cool, confident, thoughtful, strong-willed, and the life of the party. She is Joni's confidant and aspiration.
- The MOONBEAMS: The Moonbeams are Mom's sorority sisters pictured in old keepsake Phi photo. Joni imagines them as a band of sisters who always have her back, and they sing/dance everywhere that Mom and Joni go together. Flexible age and gender; and approximately 3-5 persons will be cast for The Moonbeams. Should be strong singers and dancers. They are a fun, rock back-up band to Joni and her Mom: think of the Dynamites in HAIRSPRAY, or the Trio of Narrators in THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.
- WIDE RANGE OF FEATURED ACTORS: ages approximately 16-28, for ensemble and featured roles, to portray persons in a Southeastern college town: students, grads, and campus life, including:
Vonnie – young college student in Phi, super smart and cerebral, “Bert” to Vasthy’s “Ernie”, they are roommates who live together in the Phi house, they help Joni find her way when she is “lost” on campus.
Vasthy – young college student in Phi, funny girl, life of the party, “Ernie” to Vonnie’s “Bert”... Vonnie and Vasthy are besties and sing lead on two songs that serve a similar function as “I’ve Got A Dream” in Tangled (helping our heroine connect with others in a strange new environment).
Bram – older college student in Phi, not a purposefully mean person, but just stuck up and territorial, and comedically rude, almost a caricature of someone who thinks they are sooo important
Cohen + Lowen – college students in Phi, Cohen and Lowen are a version of the classic “double act,” in the style of Laurel and Hardy, or Broad City, or Key and Peele, etc, two best pals, who play off of each other. Cohen is the not-so-bright leader of their duo, and Lowen is the even-less-bright follower.
Ensemble – our oh-so-essential and oh-so-malleable Ensemble of Players is a modern adaptation of a “Greek Chorus,” as they comment on the action and influence the heroine’s journey. These persons morph between being student revelers at campus parties, members of the congregation at Temple, and many characters throughout our story. The Ensemble sometimes supports Joni, and they work to help her in her journey; and yet, sometimes they serve as extension of the omnipotent Host of Hosts, and serve as foils to Joni accomplishing her goals.