Thursday, October 22, 2015

Spotlight On...Jara Jones

Name: Jara Jones

Hometown: Modesto, CA.  Imagine you're playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey, but with a map of California.   If you made a blind leap and aimed at the dead center of the state, you'd find it.

Education: University of Southern California

Favorite Credits: Hank Hamhock in Piggy Nation the Musical. Claudius and the Ghost in Hamlet. My two sides: cuddly and slightly bewildered, and intense, savage ferocity.

Why theater?: Truth be told, I think I made a mistake filling out the summer school elective form. Took a year of Chorus, and Drama was just below it. My shaky depth perception has guided me through decades of strange and wonderful adventures.

Tell us about King of the Hobos: It's a brand new American Folk-Rock musical I wrote, with 10 original songs, all self-accompanied on a homemade cigar box guitar.  While the story takes place in 1930 and focuses on the death of a prominent hobo icon (James Eads How), it's really a elegy to hobo culture and its parallels to the makeshift communities we sustain today in efforts to overcome systemic and unflagging economic hardships.

What inspired you to write King of the Hobos?: Consciously, I'd say my deep love of folk music. I was the kid who'd jam out to Simon and Garfunkel records and Jim Croce as well as Carole King.   Deep down, and not until halfway into the year and a half writing process, I discovered it was my father's untimely passing. Gilly (the main character) shares a lot of his traits:  an indefatigable darkness, a need to perform in front of strangers,  rivers of regret. Many of the lessons and ideas of the show are extensions of his hard-earned wisdom.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I hunger for theater where the truth walks in sideways.  Grips you without a sense of expectation.  My favorite artist of all time is a poet by the name of Russell Edson. I'd spend hours like a safe cracker, picking apart the sheer lunacy of the starting sentence of his prose poems. And yet, he always managed to construct an absurd, compassionate world out of any premise.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Marcus Gardley, the playwright. Strangest thing.  We shared a year together in high school AP English, So close I could have buzzed a paper airplane at his desk. But the timing just wasn't right for us to work on creative stuff. Seeing the wonderful work he's produced now, and hearing so many of my respected friends and colleagues recommend his art, it does my heart a kindness to witness his fire.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Besides Gardley's The Box? The last show I really raved about to friends was a production Hamlet Isn't Dead performed of Love's Labour's Lost. They're a phenomenal company, and they managed to take a troublesome script and give it such infectious, unbridled joy.  The ending of the show finally had a heartfelt impact.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Peter Dinklage. Depending on my mood that day?  If it's a comedy, we'll call it "Odes and Nonsense".  If it's a drama, something foreboding, like "My Only Prize is Silence"

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I'd go see Our American Cousin.  You know what night.  One, because time travelling heroism sounds fun.  And two, to understand what the fuss was all about, that such a play would be the highlight of that time period and would have a laugh line fabled to be so loud an assassin could intervene.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I have an unabashed love for Air Supply songs and will play them on a loop for hours sometimes.  It's the aural equivalent of eating Pixie Sticks.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Writing.  Making up songs.  Maybe some kind of secular priest.

What’s up next?: Sleep. Then, banging out a first draft of a new play:  The Museum of Broken Relationships. A show for three women where they play 20+ characters.  Based on an actual museum in Croatia.  People send them dresses, old rings, letters, all kinds of remnants of that coupled past.  There's so much to explore in this history.  What do we keep after a relationship ends?  What is considered holy?  Does giving away these baubles liberate us?