"Call Me Adam" chats with actor John Kevin Jones about the return engagement of Summoners Ensemble Theatre's production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol at the Merchant House in NYC (29 East 4th Street) which will play from December 11-28. Click here for tickets!
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1. From December 11-28, you are presenting a return engagement of Summoners Ensemble Theatre A Christmas Carol at the Merchant House. This is your 3rd year staging this show, the second at the Merchant House. What initially made you want to stage this show at the Merchant House? When my co-adapter, Rhonda Dodd, and I were developing the production in 2011 we showed the piece in different settings – from performing for invited friends in the Loewe Room at the Dramatists Guild to parties in Victorian Homes in Hartford and matchbox apartments in Manhattan. The fit inside a Victorian home really added a feeling of history coming alive. Performing a 19th Century story in a 19th Century home – it takes us back to that time but also shows us how much in common we have with the people who lived then and how truly relevant this story still is for all of us.
2. Out of all the Christmas shows out there, why did you chose A Christmas Carol? I had done a lot of really wonderful productions regionally but some of the more over-produced ones tended to lose the real heart of the story. Dickens himself read an edited text at the holidays in great halls, people stood on line for days to get tickets. I read this performance text of his and immediately saw how challenging it would be as an actor to move from character to character in such high stakes situations. And honestly, I’m moved by the story. Which for me is so much more than a tale of a bad man who goes from being stingy and mean to being generous and gregarious. Scrooge was a nice boy, who came from a nice family but he faced terrible hardships in a world that valued material gain above all else, and that hardened him – this is really a story of how a man returns to his true self. I think deep down we’re all empathetic giving people, this little fiction unlocks that reality in us – maybe for a moment, maybe for longer. It has something to say, and I discovered I wanted to say it.
3. What excites you about this upcoming return engagement? Being in the Merchant’s House is a wonderful thing all by itself. You can feel the history all around you and the opportunity to share this story from the same time period and become a part of the history of the house is humbling. It’s an honor, really.
4. What made you want Rhonda Dodd to be the show's director? What has been the best part about working together? Rhonda and I worked on adapting the script together so it seemed a no-brainer that she would come on to direct. She’s my best cheerleader and my worst critic – and that combination is truly the best thing about working together.
5. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing A Christmas Carol at the Merchant House? I would love for everyone to see a bit of themselves in Scrooge. I certainly have, and it has changed my perspective in some personally profound ways. Maybe the audiences will realize how they may have closed their hearts to the world and their own potential for doing good in it.
I hope what I offer rekindles their understanding that doing good for others is really doing good for yourself and for your entire community. And it feels good! The studied nonchalance and detachment of our modern age be damned!
6. What makes your version of A Christmas Carol different from other, previous staged, versions? I don’t have any bells and whistles, just my voice (or voices in this case – I do 20 different characters), a table, and chair. Dickens words are so powerful on their own. I’ve had many people come to me after seeing the show saying that they’d never really heard the story before. That’s the biggest compliment, to make something so careworn feel fresh and new.
7. Since A Christmas Carol at the Merchant House is being presented during the holiday season, what is your favorite part about spending the holidays in NYC? I usually spend the holidays at my family’s home in Oklahoma (Rhonda is coincidentally from Oklahoma too) but this year my father and brother are coming to stay with me – so that’s my favorite part of this holiday season in NYC, spending time with my family and being a tourist with them in my own city.
8. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My family moved around a lot and we landed in New Jersey for a while. The high school was doing The Music Man and my elementary school music teacher chose me and some other boys to audition for the show - they were looking for young children to play "Winthrop" and his friends. I got cast as a friend and when I told my mother I know she was glad I was doing something that would get me involved with other kids – moving around so much had made me painfully shy and making friends was difficult for me.
The day came for the first rehearsal and I told my mother I didn’t think I should do the show, I was afraid of going and meeting new people, afraid of being teased at the high school by a lot of kids that knew a lot more about this stuff than me. She told me that I had obligated myself to doing it and I would have to honor my commitments. The next day I got home from school, got my script and score and went to the car. When I became concerned that we would be late I honked the horn several times and yelled out the car window, "Hurry mother! They told me I cannot be late!" So I have my mother and the amazing group of kids in that first show to thank for being bitten by the bug. I’ve always been very grateful for that.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? Theater is all important, and not important at all.
10. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? That being vulnerable is a strength.
11. How do you want to be remembered? I prefer to focus on the now, but I hope that those who know me will remember me for how much I love to laugh.
12. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I’d like to be invisible whenever I wished. Think how much I’d save on plane fare.
13. If you could be any original flavor Life Saver, which one would you be? Cherry….of course.
14. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what would you put in it? Jonesin’ – 1 shot tequila, pomegranate juice and a lime – really cold. Satisfying, but leaves you wanting more.
John Kevin Jones is a member of Actors’ Equity, The Dramatist Guild of America, and is the Executive Director of Summoners Ensemble Theatre. New York credits include the 2013 holiday season's successful presentation of A Christmas Carol at the Merchant’s House, Nothing But Trash at Theater for the New City, Jeffrey (opposite Bryan Batt) at Lincoln Center, The Winter’s Tale and The Caucasian Chalk Circle, both with Hipgnosis Theatre. Regional: American Stage in St. Pete, Florida (The Pavilion), Arkansas Rep. (Othello), Kentucky Rep. (The Rivals, All My Sons, Comedy of Errors), Memphis’ Playhouse on the Square (Angels in America, Last Night of Ballyhoo, Gross Indecency). Directing credits include A Lie of the Mind, Revenge of the Space Pandas, and Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Kevin received his BA in Theater, Performance from the University of South Florida and his MFA in Theater, Directing from the University of Memphis.