Playwright with Chesapeake roots offers new direction

Published 9:45 am Monday, October 5, 2009

Jonathan Joy was 15 when he started his love affair with the theater. That is when he started taking the acting classes of Rebecca Payne at Chesapeake Schools.

“I loved being on stage and hearing the reaction from the audience,” Joy said. “It was the first thing I found I loved doing. Not only acting, but writing, directing. I love the theater as an art form, the immediacy of the audience being there. The relationship is pretty incredible.”

Now Joy will indulge his passion for the theater when he presents his direction of a Samuel Becket play with fellow Chesapeake residents, Mike Murdock and Jerry Morse, as actors.

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“Ohio Impromptu,” the short play by the famed playwright, is part of a night of music and theater at the Huntington Museum of Art Tuesday, Oct. 7, starting at 7 p.m.

“What in the World Was That?” is a 60-minute program that is presented in conjunction with the ongoing museum exhibit,” I Don’t Get it: Non-objective Works from the Permanent Collection.” The exhibit explores the forms, concepts and theories of 20th century art.

The work that Joy has directed was commissioned by a group from Ohio State University in 1981 when Beckett turned 75.

“It is a relatively short play — 10 minutes. But he labored over this play for nine months,” Joy said. “It is a pretty incredible piece. It is part of this night of offbeat and experimental works.”

After his teen-age years studying theater, Joy went onto Marshall University where he earned an undergraduate in theater and a master’s degree in English. He now teaches both fields at Marshall’s technical and community college.

So far Joy has a resume as a playwright of 20 works, most notably “The Princess of Rome, Ohio,” that premiered in Huntington four years ago and was produced in New York City at the Gotham Comedy Club in March of this year.

“It takes place in Rome, a teen-age girl and her dysfunctional family, and her wanting to move away and start a new life,” Joy said. “It is a comedy with a lot of Appalachian characters.”

Frequenters to the dinner theater productions at First United Methodist Church in Huntington, W.Va., know well the works of Joy from his series of “Bitsy Boots and Ida,” plays. He has also provided works for First Stage, the children’s theater in Huntington.

“It is a great place to be a writer,” Joy said. “I write a play and know in six months there will be a group that will take a chance on it. I don’t think a lot of playwrights have that chance. We have a lot of different groups performing. I have been really fortunate.”