Homecoming king finds his 'song of life' through theatre
Like his character in the play “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” Jamar Jones ’13 is trying to find his song of life.
And though he almost didn’t enroll at William & Mary, it is here that he has begun to find the notes to that melody through his work on stage in the theatre and off in the classroom and in the campus community. In October, Jones saw all of those efforts come together when he was crowned W&M’s Homecoming king.
For Jones, being selected for that honor was a microcosm of his experience at the College.
“For all of this to happen during senior year brought things full circle and reminds me exactly why I fell in love with W&M in the first place,” he said.
“I really felt a lot of love and support from the community. It was very humbling for me to receive such a nice honor from my class.”
A Reluctant Leader
Becoming Homecoming King is a culmination of Jones’ time at the College, which almost never began.
“I wasn’t sure that this would be the best choice for me,” he said.
But, after a few weeks on campus and first-hand experience with the W&M community, Jones developed what he calls a “great network of support and encouragement from everyone in the community.”
Jones wanted to share his love for W&M with others, becoming one of 12 senior admissions interviewers at the Office of Undergraduate Admission this past summer.
Between interviewing applying high school seniors, giving campus tours, and holding question-and-answer sessions with applicants and their family, Jones has been the face of W&M to many prospective students.
“It’s something I love and find really rewarding,” Jones said.
Jones likewise seeks to foster the spirit of community that first made him feel at home at W&M by working as a residence assistant with Residence Life for his three upperclassman years.
Ultimately, Jones found his niche at the College in its theatre program, participating in many of the theatre department’s productions as well as making opportunities for himself.
“Being a major, you get to know everyone and do things. I’ve been on the main stage a few times, worked closely with professors—like honors work—and the classes,” he said. “It’s been great to be in a department where so many people love what you do.”
Most recently, Jones played the character Seth Holly in the theatre department’s production of “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” in October.
According to Jones, the play focuses on the first generation of post-slavery African Americans as they strive to find their place in the world, a theme that he finds relevant beyond the bounds of the theatre.
“All the characters are trying to find their songs in the play, and that’s so important. Especially as a senior now, I’m trying to find the tune to my song of life,” he said.
Delving into African-American Theatre
The concerns “Joe Turner” addresses particularly resonate with Jones, who has made African American theatre a research interest at W&M and beyond.
Assistant Professor of Theatre Artisia Green, who directed “Joe Turner,” has served as a mentor and guide for Jones during his time at W&M, helping him find opportunities to pursue his interest not only in his honors thesis, but in the black theatre community as a whole.
Jones is the Undergraduate Liaison for the Black Theatre Network (BTN), a role he became involved with because of Green. As liaison, he will serve on BTN’s executive board for two years.
“My role will be to encourage other undergraduates to get involved in BTN and to get a student perspective on things we’d like to see at the conferences,” said Jones.
According to Jones, BTN is a nationwide organization comprised of actors, directors, and performers, as well as professors and theatre scholars.
Closer to home, Jones is working on an honors thesis developing a performance-based show for the spring semester exploring the development of African-American drama over time.
“I am following a path of assessing my personal experiences in theatre, and how I learned and am still learning the ‘song’ in what is deemed to be African-American drama. I am using my experiences to understand how people construct and define a blueprint and criteria of what African-American drama can be,” said Jones.
In a somewhat less scholarly endeavor, but nonetheless one suited to his interests, Jones served as an extra in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” film starring Daniel Day-Lewis that came out this month.
“I have no idea if I will be able to be seen in the film,” said Jones of his experience, “I shot a few battle scenes and it was great to meet Mr. Spielberg. He is a very nice guy. So, I am keeping my fingers crossed that hopefully I will at least be able to see the back of my head in a battle scene.”
No matter what happens after he leaves W&M, Jones wants to stay involved in the theatre.
“I always want to continue to perform. Physically, I start to get ill and uncomfortable when I haven’t had a performance in a few months…It’s my addiction,” Jones said.
Building on that passion, Jones says, “I want to develop a performing arts center for students to showcase their talents…I want to create a space for young adults because I enjoy helping other people especially when it comes to acting.”
In doing so, Jones will continue to help others experience a sense of supportive community Jones fell in love with at W&M.
“Theatre is a teaching thing and it’s also a healing thing,” he said.