Joy Jones is a native Washingtonian who currently plays the role of Beneatha Younger in Arena Stage’s production of A Raisin in the Sun.
Q: Beneatha is a brilliant and complicated character. What is it like to play her?
A: It’s a joy to play Beneatha: She is principled, intelligent, and judgmental but never purposefully cruel. She’s very sure of herself—except of course when she isn’t—and I enjoy playing her contrasts and her growing sense of herself. The wonderful costumes of costume designer Harry Nadal also help me chart her journey towards knowledge and maturity.
Q: What was your first acting job in Washington DC?
A: My first acting job in DC was as a teenage performer with the DC youth ensemble, which had a summer theater program as part of the summer youth employment program.
Q: What is your favorite thing about working professionally in the theater?
A: Opportunity to create stories collaboratively with other artist’s stories that give audiences opportunities and provocations and entertainments to think about their own humanity and the humanity of others
Q: What advice would you give to young people who would like to make a career in theater?
A: Hmm, I would recommend several things: first, reading books about the business aspects of being the arts. For example, a career in theater is actually a sequence of many, many projects and the professional and financial uncertainty that comes from stringing together projects is not for everyone! Next, I would encourage people to make their own work—either by themselves or with a group—so that they aren’t only relying on opportunities given to them by others. Last, I would tell them to practice articulating to family and friends why theater or other creative work is important to them. Our families and friends love us, they don’t necessarily love our artistic pursuits or even understand them, but we can help our relationships by giving our loved ones a window into what we do and why.
Q: Growing up in DC, what do you think of the changes happening to the city?
A: As a native Washingtonian, who returned to DC from NYC several years ago and now lives in SW DC, I am mostly happy about the increase in population, development, and amenities here. But the rising cost of housing is a serious concern. Diversity isn’t only about ethnicity it’s about socioeconomics, too.
Q: What is the next show we can see you in?
A: The next production I’m in will not be in the area, but in Fayetteville, Arkansas at TheatreSquared. The play is called The Champion and I will play singer-activist Nina Simone. The play is a world premiere by Amy Evans and the focus is on a true incident where Nina Simone rescued her band from an incident with police after a winter concert in 1962. Lorraine Hansberry and Nina Simone were friends and Lorraine Hansberry encouraged Nina Simone to use her public profile for activism. So it will be a wonderful next step giving voice to these two wonderful artists.