AAPEX Interview: Garlia Jones — Blackboard Reading Series , Garlia Cornelia Jones — AAPEX

Friday, February 25, 2011

AAPEX Interview: Garlia Jones

Garlia Jones, 
founder of NYC's Blackboard Reading Series

Garlia Jones, founder of NYC's Blackboard Reading Series, is also the author of STRANGER IN MY BODY, a provocative new play about sexual identity which opens on Wednesday, March 2 at the cell in NYC

I asked Garlia to tell us about herself, her work with playwrights and her play:

What role did theatre and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing?
My father has been an actor and Shakespeare scholar my entire life. Theatre and music were not uncommon in my family at all.  My father had a madrigal choir for nearly 20 years in Canada (we lived in Detroit) and he produced and starred in Othello more times than I can remember during my childhood.  So - theatre and the arts were natural and an essential part of my childhood.

Tell us about your own evolution as an artist.
Following my father, I knew that I wanted to be an artist.  I also knew that I wanted to be a teacher, as he has been for over 60 years (but that is another story).  I wanted to be an actor - but I had / have a stutter ... so I eventually gave that up.  I wanted to be an Opera Singer, but I guess I was a little too shy, so I stuck to playing my flute, and learning to dance.  I studied the Checetti method of Ballet and passed three exams with flying colors, but I knew I would never be a dancer.  Finally, in highschool, I immersed myself in theatre (in addition to flute, band and choir) and by the time I was in college, I knew I wanted to be a director.   I started a Black Theatre Group because of the lack of roles for Black Theatre students on the mainstage.  Black Curtain was a success and so enjoyable!  We accomplished so much as an organization and in the meantime, I was a writer, director and producer!  Everyone wanted me to be a director...  I wanted to be a director - but writing was something that I was really drawn to do.  So when I decided to pursue the MA in African American and African Diapsora Studies at Indiana University (Where I had also done my B.A.), I knew I wanted that degree before pursuing an MFA in Playwrighting.  That would get me back into the classroom - back to where I also really wanted to be - teaching - (and all without the Education degree)... at least that's what I thought...

When I was accepted to The New School - the final part of my "plan" was in place.  After my first year, I didn't have Black Curtain and had now grown a bit, so I knew I wanted to focus the energy towards Playwrights.  I wanted them to have a home - I wanted them to have a place they could hear their work - like poets (bc I had been deeply involved with Poets/Poetry during college)  Blackboard Reading Series is what was born out of my thoughts for this series.  I stumbled upon two women with a space (Nancy Manocherian and Kira Simring of the cell) and proposed the series to them - they were thrilled and gave it a name - Blackboard - for the Blackboard paint on the walls.

What is the mission of The Blackboard Reading Series?
Blackboard Reading Series is devoted to the work of Black Playwrights throughout the African Diaspora.

What inspired you to write STRANGER IN MY BODY?
During my last year of my MA at Indiana, I met a woman who was thinking of  beginning her transition.  During my 1st year at The New School for Drama, I met a woman that, at the time, resembled the woman I knew at Indiana and I literally said I wanted to write a play for this actor (Chaelon Costello - who plays ABIA).  The story came from there, but was not about the woman at Indiana.  She was the inspiration, but this is not a biography. The story has now evolved into it's own story, encompassing my hometown and these characters, that I have gotten to know over these past 4 years.

Interview by Jaz Dorsey, Dramaturg, The African American Playwrights Exchange.

* This reading of Stranger In My Body is produced by the cell, a Twenty First Century Salon (TM) in Chelsea and Not Blackboard Reading Series / Blackboard @ the cell*

To buy tickets, please click the post's title.

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