In the Belly of the Whale

the show 

Biography: About the Creator and Performer

Jonathan Bender, MS, MFA


I'm a 4th generation New York Jew
who grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona
with a Christmas tree.

- J., In the Belly of the Whale

Jonathan Bender, MS, MFA is a stage director, performer and writer. Since 1986, he has performed in over 100 productions, in challenging and diverse roles ranging from Lucifer to Tom Sawyer.

He is, indeed, a fourth generation New York Jew who moved to Arizona as a young child. After earning a BA in Dramatic Art and Anthropology (cum laude) from UC Berkeley, he pursued a multifaceted theater career in the San Francisco Bay Area as a director, playwright and performer, while also working as an acting teacher and speech coach.

Jonathan's passion is to reinvigorate theater as an exciting, unparalleled art form, attracting audiences who normally prefer to watch sports, play Nintendo or pretty much do anything else. As a means to these ends, he earned a Master’s Degree in Performance Studies and Speech Communication from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and then moved to Boulder, Colorado to earn an MFA from Naropa University’s cutting-edge program in Theater: Contemporary Performance.

At Naropa, Jonathan specialized in physical, ensemble-developed theater and the development of new work, training under such luminaries as Moisés Kaufman, Meredith Monk, and SITI Company. Jonathan also focused on creating interview-based performance, utilizing the words of real people. This training, along with similar techniques taught in Performance Studies focused on creating awareness and social change, were the catalysts for creating In the Belly of the Whale.

In addition to his directing and performing career, Jonathan founded WholeSpeak™, a company offering workshops and private coaching in public speaking, acting, and self-expression, for both adults and teens. See for details.

Jonathan resides in San Francisco, California, and travels throughout the country and internationally to perform, teach, and direct. He can be reached at