Learning the Craft of Theatre with Daniel Alexander Jones

Director of Upcoming Play “Wedding Band” Discusses the “Love/Hate Story in Black and White”


Published: October 7, 2010

Franny’s Space is lit with bright lights that create a soothing yet strong, vibrant aura. The rehearsal space at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) perfectly compliments the personality of Daniel Alexander Jones, director and assistant professor of theatre. While speaking with the Observer in Franny’s recently before directing rehearsal of the season’s first Mainstage production, a performance of Alice Childress’ play “Wedding Band,” Jones was soft-spoken but passionate about his craft.

Daniel Alexander Jones, assistant professor of theatre, is the director of “Wedding Band,” the first Mainstage production of the season. (Sara Azoulay/The Observer)

Observer: From where did your love of theatre arise? When did it start?

Daniel Alexander Jones: Honestly, in high school. I was going to be a painter and one of my study classes was held in the theatre room. I would see these actors coming in and out dressed up in costumes and doing all sorts of fabulous things. I got very curious and ended up auditioning for the theatre program, got in and that was the end of it. I think I loved how exciting and scary live performance was to be in and to go to.

Observer: Previously being a student of theatre, what’s your best advice for students at FCLC studying playwriting, acting and theatre history now?

D.A.J.: Learn all aspects of the craft. Learn both how to participate in the business as it stands but also how to innovate. Bring in new ideas about how things can be produced and how things can live in the role using new technology. Also, as with anything, learn the basics. It’s very important to learn the basics of your craft.

Observer: “Wedding Band” is kicking off the FCLC Mainstage production season. How do you feel about the upcoming season and the first play?

D.A.J.: It’s a tremendous season. The theme of the season is strong women. It’s a good theme, right? So there are these wonderful, wonderful leading roles of women and I’m really excited about “Wedding Band” because it’s a play by this writer, Alice Childress. Her work is extraordinary. She’s a gifted American playwright but she’s not as well known as many writers. So [the fact] that we get to celebrate her work, a strong female writer writing a strong woman as the lead, is amazing.

Observer: What’s the plot of “Wedding Band?”

D.A.J.: It’s a story that orbits around the relationship of a black woman named Julia Augustine. She is a seamstress in 1918 in Charleston, South Carolina. She has been in a relationship for 10 years with a white baker named Turman. Because of the laws of the time, their relationship was illegal. Not only were they not allowed to marry, but if they were discovered, there would be severe consequences for them. So there’s already a lot of tension set up. It’s also the summer when the influenza epidemic ravaged the world and, in particular, killed more American citizens than all the wars in the 20th century combined. The story takes place in this atmosphere and it has a lot to do with who finds out about the relationship, what the consequences are and how this environment begins to affect the characters.

Observer:  How does “Wedding Band” compare to previous plays that you’ve directed?

D.A.J.: It differs in some ways because it’s a full-length, two-act play that is grounded in realism. Most of my work is performance art and avant-garde. I very often work with one-act structures and I direct a lot of solo performances. [For “Wedding Band”], I have a cast of 11. Interestingly, I directed this play when I was in college, 21 years ago, when I was a student working with fellow students. It’s a completely different play because I’m much smarter now and I’ve lived more. The core of the play is still very exciting so it’s interesting to return to a play that I did just starting out in theatre after now being a professional for over 15 years.

Observer:  Are you satisfied with your cast for the production?

D.A.J.: I love the cast. The cast contributes an incredible amount of courage because this subject matter is very charged. It deals with very old historical wounds in America and everybody is so courageous, not only to say these words and do these things, but to talk about their own experiences.  Everybody is really bringing incredible skill to the creation of these characters. Even though it’s naturalism, I’m bringing a lot of my avant-garde approach so we’re using a lot of dance and music as we make the piece. [The cast] has to do a lot more than is typical for a realistic staging of a realistic play.

Observer: What do you hope the audience takes away from “Wedding Band?”

D.A.J.: I hope the audience watches this group of incredible performers tell this story written by a very courageous writer and it inspires them to have difficult but important conversations about race, class and gender in our society today.

“Wedding Band” opens on Oct. 7, with performances on Oct. 8, 9, 13, 14, and 15. All performances begin at 8 p.m. in Pope Auditorium.

General admission is $15, admission for Fordham faculty, alumni and staff members is $10 (recent alums “pay what you can”) and admission for students (from any school with valid ID) and senior citizens is $5. Thursdays are $2 student nights.

For more details, contact the Mainstage box office at (212) 636-6340. Box office is open Wednesday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. and one hour prior to show.