Writing to Make a Difference

Local playwright debuts new work after injury

“I think the theme of the play is really the imprisonment of people. Here are these kids that are in a last chance program, they’re in a credit recovery. They stay in one room all day, every day. How do they break from that? How do they break from what they’re in? Do they want to break from what they’re in?” Jones said.

The 44 year old playwright said he’d dabbled in sketches and monologues in grade school, but phased that out when he became interested in sports. When he sustained a chipped bone in his ankle during his college years of playing football at Eastern Oregon State University in La Grande, he decided to get into writing plays. His football coach laughed dismissively at the switch, but Jones wrote his first play that very night—“Both Sides of the Fence,” which dealt with the Crips and Bloods.

In the past five years, he’s taken a break from writing to focus on raising his children and working long shifts at an auto distribution center in Beaverton, Oregon. But a recent injury, this time to his spinal cord, once again set him on the path to his craft.

“I couldn’t do anything anymore. I was just on the couch getting fat. So I was just like ‘God what do you want me to do, before I go out of my mind.’ Then one day it just hit me: go back to writing,” Jones recalled.

Jones had dropped a tray of heavy parts at work, which yanked him down and caused the injury. Now he has limited use of his right arm, which goes numb, as well as swelling and limited mobility in his neck. An avid mixed martial arts athlete, the injury has put a significant damper on Jones’ lifestyle and slid him into a depression for a bit. He’s scheduled to get a neck fusion in the near future, which will guarantee that he won’t succumb to any further paralysis. But doctors told him that the surgery only has a 50/50 chance of restoring full mobility to where it was before.

Jones said he’s trying to make the best out of the situation.

“When God wants you to do something and you’re not hearing, he’ll get your attention. Even though it’s a negative thing, I’m getting something corrected, and I’m getting back into something that I treasure and love so much.”

Back in 2007, Jones was a resident producer at the now shuttered Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center in north Portland. The former fire station on Interstate Avenue was reworked into a culturally diverse performing arts hub in the 1980s. One of Jones’ most acclaimed plays, “The Code,” premiered there. It was about the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white cop, told through the eyes of his partner, a black police officer. He is currently working on a screenplay to turn “The Code” into a movie next year, through his production company, Studio 20.

“Jupiter is Stormy” stars Portland actors Aries Annitya, Netty McKenzie, John D’Aversa, Ashley Pio, and Eric Island. Jones may be reached for more information at studio20ent@hotmail.com.