Local playwright getting national recognition

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 17, 2005

New York, San Francisco and Lawrence County rarely

intersect, but that's exactly what will happen Sunday when South Point playwright Jonathan Joy will be recognized in one of the world's most respected publications, The New York Times.

Joy spent the first 19 years of his life in South Point before beginning his higher education at Marshall University in 1994. He studied English in college, but always had a spot in his heart for the stage. In 1998, he started his own theatrical production company, Free Spirit Productions, which still mounts plays throughout the Tri-State.

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Though it may not have a reputation as an artistic hotbed, Joy said his time in Lawrence County has been invaluable to him as a writer.

"There's wonderful character studies all around you, and there's Appalachian themes, like growing up in rural American or small-town politics, that haven't been written about a lot by playwrights from New York or the West Coast," Joy said. "I feel like there are stories here that haven't been explored on stage to the same extent."

In his two full-length and several shorter plays Joy often draws heavily on his time in Lawrence County, plays which he frequently submits to various theatre festivals and contests. So when the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco challenged playwrights from across the globe to blend a character from a play by world-renowned author David Mamet with another well-known theatrical work, Joy took up the gauntlet.

He found his inspiration for the contest in his favorite play, Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie." However, in Joy's comedic version, the gentleman that calls on shy Laura has been replaced by "Richard Roma," the slick real estate salesman from David Mamet's play, "Glengarry Glen Ross."

Apparently, the unlikely mix worked, as Joy, along with nine other writers, received the lofty honor of having their plays performed alongside the premiere of Mamet's latest play, "The Voysey Inheritance," at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.

Even more good news was heaped upon Joy recently, when he was informed that a portion of his play and his name would be published in the upcoming Sunday edition of the New York Times.

It's nice to get a little national acclaim, but being a small-town playwright has never bothered Joy, who now lives in Huntington and teaches theatre at Shawnee State University.

"I've had lots of opportunities here, because there's not many people trying to do it," Joy said. "You go somewhere else and there's a lot more opportunities, but there's also a lot more competition, so it's kind of a double-edged sword."

As he basks in the glow of these latest victories, Joy already has his eyes set on his next conquest, as he prepares one of his full-length plays, "The Princess of Rome, Ohio," for its premiere in Columbus' "Fringe Festival" in June.