As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Rebecca Naomi Jones, most recently on Broadway in a Drama Desk-nominated performance as Laurey in the Tony-winning revival of Oklahoma!. Jones has also been seen on Broadway in Significant Other, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, American Idiot, and Passing Strange, while her Off-Broadway credits include Fire in Dreamland, Describe the Night, Marie and Rosetta, Big Love, The Fortress of Solitude, Love's Labour's Lost, Murder Ballad, This Beautiful City, and Wig Out!. Her recent screen outings include The Outside Story, Bleeding Love, Someone Great, Most Likely to Murder, High Maintenance, Sas & Jake, aka Wyatt Cenac, Odd Mom Out, Genius, and The Big Stick. Jones is also one of the many artists featured on the new album (I Am) Nobody’s Lunch, part of The Michael Friedman Collection from Ghostlight Records and The Civilians.
What is your typical day like now?
Right now it’s water, coffee, read news articles online, get sucked into the Internet for hours, eat, more Internet or sometimes make an audition tape, force myself to work out, cook, eat again, watch TV, read, sleep.
There was a solid stretch of time in which my quarantine schedule included practicing Spanish daily via Duolingo and practicing piano daily as well, but I’ve become a bit of a rebel as of late.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
Books: Americanah, The Tender Bar, The Glass Castle, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I just read The Power, and though it’s not the kind of book I’m usually into, it was surprisingly appropriate reading for the time we’re living in.
TV shows: Succession, Ramy, Alone.
Podcasts: The Ezra Klein Show (episode titled "Why Ta-Nehisi Coates Is Hopeful"), Nice White Parents, Radio Cherry Bombe, The Daily, Still Processing, Point of Origin, Girlboss.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding Black artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
This time is providing us with opportunity to take a real look at how we lead our lives and what we stand for, passively and actively. I’m excited that we’re moving towards necessary change in the long-held structures that frame our theatrical community. I think it’s really important that in our work to attain more equity and inclusion, we make space for as many points of view (opposing as well as shared) as possible. Theatre is most thrilling when it generates provocative conversations and doesn’t play safe.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
Something that has been helpful for me is keeping in mind the fact that we’re all going through this at the same time. I’ve felt isolated before, I’ve felt stress and fatigue and hurt and rage over the ways people treat each other before. But right now there is a solidarity which is somewhat comforting, and gives me a sense of hope for change that I didn’t expect to see in my lifetime.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
I took a collage workshop online with artist Tay Butler, and that was really juicy— I’m by no means a visual artist, but I’ve always really loved and appreciated visual art. I don’t usually have the time or opportunity to dabble in art other than that which employs me, so I’m grateful. Beyond that, here and there I’m being asked to put auditions on tape for TV and film, and getting to do my work feels like such a gift.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
I voiced a role in a musical podcast called Bleeding Love. We recorded it in the early days of the quarantine, late March. Since then I’ve done a handful of virtual readings and concerts.
What organization(s) would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
It is so easy to become overwhelmed with the decision of where you should donate, because there are so many great and important organizations out there—Color of Change, When We All Vote, of course, the ACLU, et cetera. If you are feeling that sense of overwhelm, I think the ActBlue website is a great place to start from!