There's an article in today's Herald-Dispatch about my pal Jon Joy, who's the director for the play James and the Giant Peach, which runs tonight and tomorrow afternoon at the old Huntington High School.
You can read the story right here, or right here:
Huntington native Jonathan Joy spends a lot of time teaching and directing young actors on stage, and that's only natural, since that's where his own career got started.
As a junior in high school he decided to try out for the 1992 production of Alice in Wonderland, which was staged by the new Huntington children's theatre.
He was hooked, and he's been active in theatre ever since as an actor, a playwright and a director.
Now he's back where it all started, with First Stage Theatre Company -- but instead of acting, he's in the director's chair. He's been working for the past two months with more than 30 young actors as they bring to life the stage version of James and the Giant Peach.
"It's always been one of my favorite stories," Joy said. "I played the Old-Green Grasshopper at the Phoenix Theatre Circle in Columbus 11 years ago and had a blast. Ever since then, I've talked about doing it again."
The play is based on the classic book by Roald Dahl (who's most famous for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which starred Willy Wonka). It's being presented at the Renaissance Center (the old Huntington High School) at 8 p.m. today, Oct. 2, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children 12 and under.
The story is all about a young boy named James who is treated badly by his aunts. When a magic spell causes a giant peach to appear, James crawls inside and meets a strange group of friends -- giant, talking insects. They all make their escape and find their way into bigger and wilder adventures.
Joy's been impressed at the skills of the young actors in the play.
"This whole process was remarkably smooth," he said. "We had about 20 rehearsals and many of the performers had their lines memorized after only six or seven of those. It's a very focused, intelligent group and that made for a great experience."
Some of the actors are already stage veterans, but for almost half the cast, it's their first time on stage.
"There are also a lot of kids that are new to the theatre," Joy said. "I like watching them get to experience this for the first time. It reminds me of the shows I did 18 years ago and how much they meant to me."
This is a stage show he recommends highly.
"It's fun, imaginative, funny and, I believe, a show that all ages will enjoy," he said. "It's a classic story with a very talented cast. What more could you ask for?"
Joy said he enjoys teaching young actors because of the many benefits of taking the stage.
"Being involved in theatre is a great way to meet people and make friends," he said. "In addition, it's a great way to build important life skills, such as confidence, work ethic, drive and cooperation."
He speaks from experience, because working in theatre made such a difference in his life.
"I was shy and acting brought me out of my shell," he said. "I had a lot of fun meeting new people and being on stage boosted my self-esteem."
His involvement in theatre has covered a lot of ground since then.
He's the author of 22 plays, including The Princess of Rome, Ohio, The First Day of Summer and Bitsy and Boots. His plays have been performed in 10 states, including stages in New York City, San Francisco and Chicago. His political comedy "American Standard" will make its international debut in Dubai this November.
As an actor, he has performed as Stuart Little in The Adventures of Stuart Little, Lysander in A Midsummer Nights Dream and Crumpet in The Santaland Diaries. Directing credits include Much Ado About Nothing, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and now, James and the Giant Peach.
He's also proud of his work in the classroom. Over the past 10 years he has worked with thousands of Tri-State youth in a variety of theatre programming at the Huntington Museum of Art and the Paramount Arts Center.
Joy has other stage shows in the works, but a lot of his offstage time is occupied at the moment with an even more important project -- he and his wife Rissie are new parents and are enjoying their 6-month-old son Levi -- a true bundle of "Joy."
For more information about James and the Giant Peach, call 304-416-KIDS (304-416-5437) or visit the website at www.FirstStageTheatre.org.