Friday, August 19, 2016
Spotlight On...Tony Jenkins
Hometown: Winston Salem, NC
Education: Senior at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Pursuing my BFA in Acting.
Favorite Credits: Bynum in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, directed by Nicole Watson.
Why theater?: I believe that the theatre is the only place where we get to have real time collective experiences with stories. The only place where actors are received fully present. The only place where we get to have unfiltered dialogues with the audience. The barriers of time and space don’t exist and the discoveries are real. Theatre is the place for me where the unexpected is inevitable and I have to use all the tools I have patiently gathered as a performer. The first time I felt I really had an impact on the world was as a teenager doing spoken word poetry at a community assembly on race and education. Theatre in that instant was political, controversial, and unapologetically specific. Theatre is the place where I find myself the most reflected and certainly the most visible.
Tell us about Black Magic: In a direct audience address, the characters confront their relationship with death, past love, the system that killed them, the men who pulled the trigger, the world at large, and themselves. Incorporating elements of spoken word poetry, dance, and classic red nose clowning, Black Magic is the paradox of the African American experience: how we can disappear but still be here forever – born, buried, and born again. I find that now, more than ever, our play has an uncomfortable relevance. Instead of plugging the theatrical into the world, the world has forced itself in our theatrical space. We have the gift, and the burden, of focusing our attention in the performance on honoring real stories with action and love. Our act of creation with this company has been all about uncovering the stories that exist inside us already. That black life is resilient and that love is the antidote to death.
What inspired you to write Black Magic?: Black Magic was an accident of sorts. It is the most haunted I’ve been by a text. It demanded to be written. I like to think that I wasn’t inspired to write, nearly as much as I surrendered to the stories that came. I was most inspired, if I can attribute this play to myself, by the work of other spoken word poets that have tackled this great, unconquerable pain. I was inspired by the abundance of black love in my life and the tragedy at the thought of losing it. I was inspired by my own confusion in my journey as a person of mixed race and as an artist of color who has been asked to compromise vision for comfort.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: My mother inspires me to be an artist. My father inspires me to be an artist. Those people who are creative and masters of their craft who don’t identify as artists. It reminds me that there is a need to articulate the frustrations and joys of life that we don’t acknowledge outside of the theatre nearly enough. It reminds me that I have the impulse to make art that is universal in it’s specificity; that art is for the public. Theatre that is honest and gritty speaks to me the most. Unapologetic acting, dirty and wild expression coupled with powerful images. As an actor, I most enjoy plays that allow me to be the channel for stories of love and understanding. Sometimes that means having the most emotional and unbeautiful journey. That is what I crave. Theatre that is my experience moves me particularly. Although there aren’t a lot of plays that center around young, queer, multiracial, men, when I find them, it is magical.
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I’d like to work with the actors who make acting a mystery. I watch Viola Davis act and I wonder at her power. I watch Mark Rylance relate to an audience with complete sincerity and no frills. The Meryl Streeps and the Kate Winslets who transform seamlessly. The list is long, but the common thread is the mysterious excellence.
What show have you recommended to your friends?: The last show I recommended was The Color Purple. Wow, what an incredible community of love. Cynthia Erivo is not of this earth. The entire cast was invested, whole body. I was in awe.
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I’m not sure I know the actor yet who would play me. Honestly there aren’t many actors who look like me working today. Perhaps Tyler James Williams? It would be called Mixed Fruit, and would probably have a parenthetical title like (the story of a confused multi ethnic homosexual).
If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: The first play that came to me was James Earl Jones’ Fences. Or maybe waiting for Godot with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Watching The View. I watch it for Whoopi honestly, but for some reason I don’t tell people I’m a fan. I watch it religiously.
If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Confused. Probably a novelist.
What’s up next?: After Black Magic closes I will be heading back to NC to finish my last year at UNCSA. In the fall I will be in the Musical Sideshow directed by Bob Francesconi.