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BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Thomas W. Jones II

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Thomas W. Jones II
Thomas W. Jones II. Photo by Chris Banks.

Today's subject Thomas W. Jones II is currently living his theater life working on several projects at MetroStage in Alexandria, Virginia. This weekend you can see his directorial work with a three-day return engagement of Anne & Emmett by Janet Langhart Cohen. Performances are this Friday, July 28 (8:00 PM) through Sunday, July 30 (3:00 PM). There are two performances on Saturday, July 29 - one at 3:00 PM and one at 8:00 PM).

Thomas has been a part of the DC theater community for many years now as a director, writer, and performer. Local performance credits include Waiting for Godot and Top Dog/Under Dog at Studio Theatre and more recently Cherokee at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Regional performance credits include Distracted, A Cool Drink of Water and Neighbors for Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis.

As a director his vast body of work includes Fences, Pippin, and Home at Round House Theatre; SLAM!, Master Harold...and the Boys, and Seven Guitars at Studio Theatre; and Tripping Through the Car House at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

Perhaps he is best known to DC audiences as the writer and/or director of many productions at MetroStage. Some of his works are based on African American entertainment icons as in Pearl Bailey...By Request. Other plays deal with the African American experience as with Three Sistahs, Bessie's Blues, and Uprising. Besides presenting his own work at MetroStage, Thomas has helmed productions of The Gin Game, Gee's Bend and The All Night Strut.

Thomas W. Jones II is a talent that has been around our theater scene for a great while and his versatility shows through his numerous credits. This weekend at MetroStage you can catch what might be one of his most important pieces of theater he's directed yet. Starting August 17 at MetroStage, you can see him back on stage in his one-man tour-de-force show, The Wizard of Hip or When in Doubt Slam Dunk. The season of Thomas W. Jones II is upon us. Come join in.

Which came first for you, writing, directing. or performing?

Writing came first for me. While at Amherst College I studied with Toby Sanchez. While there, I was an actor, but at one rehearsal I told a director what to do. He said you should become a director and the rest is history.

What was your first professional job in the theater?

It was Jomandi Productions which my family and I started. I did that for 22 years and then started working at other theaters.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Thomas W. Jones II
Enoch King and Roz White in the MetroStage production of Anne & Emmett. Photo by Chris Banks

Can you please tell us a little something about Anne & Emmett?

It's written by Janet Langhart Cohen and is a memory piece about what would happen if Anne Frank and Emmett Till actually had met. It also deals with how we see social issues through the way these two suffered.

You have been working at MetroStage for many years. What is it about this venue that you most enjoy?

For me it's the repertoire. It's great having a home for my work and African American playwrights and performers.

You have been around DC theater for a while now. What are some of the biggest changes you have seen since you first started working here?

It's a constant evolution. There is a great amount of African American work being done now. There were only a few companies back when I started, but now all of the theaters are producing it. It's very exciting

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Thomas W. Jones II
The Company of MetroStage's production of Bessie's Blues. Photo by Chris Banks.

Can you please a few favorite projects that you worked on? As an actor? Director? Writer?

Performing: The Wizard of Hip and/or Top Dog/ Under Dog.

Writing: Bessie's Blues and/or Cool Papa's Party.

Directing: Bessie's Blues- It had a great cast including Roz White and others I am still friends with to this day.

Why is so important that people come see a work like Anne & Emmett this weekend?

If we don't understand the past then we will repeat it. It features a great ensemble doing incredible work and leaves the audience engaging in conversation after seeing it.

Special thanks to MetroStage's Producing Artistic Director for her assistance in coordinating this interview.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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