Corey Jones as King John
Corey Jones returns for his second year at the Festival. Last year we saw him as Aaron in Titus Andronicus, Reverend Sykes in To Kill a Mockingbird and an ambassador in Mary Stuart. We spent some time with him to learn more about him and his thoughts on this role.
How did you get into acting?
I was bitten by the bug in high school. I grew up in Chicago and in Illinois you have to take a semester of speech in high school. A teacher suggested I try out for the speech team. I fell in love with it and found out I have a knack for it.
At Washington University, where I did my undergrad in history, a drama professor in the African American studies program was the artistic director of the St. Louis Black Repertory Company. He offered me an internship when I graduated. That’s where I decided to become a professional actor. I got a chance to work with some incredible actors like Ruby Dee. I stayed in St. Louis for another 3 years at the Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. I realized I needed some more training, and applied for grad school - got into the University of Texas Austin and received my MFA. Right out of that I got an offer to go to the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts (PCPA) in California where I was for 3 years and then moved to LA where I auditioned for Brian and David.
Talk to us about the role of King John.
I have not played King John before. It’s a huge challenge, especially with the language. It’s not often done, and the histories are tough because you have to deal with English history and “political speak.” Shakespeare has taken liberties with certain events, but the play highlights John’s controversy with the church and what was happening with Queen Elizabeth at that time.
John is such a complicated figure. He was the youngest of 5 sons who really had no claim or inheritance. Just so happens that 3 of his brothers died prematurely. His brother Richard reigned for 10 years, but spent most of his time in the crusades and then he died. So John was the only one left to manage the kingdom in Richard’s absence. The child, Arthur, who is the son of John’s older brother Geoffrey, is said to have more claim to the throne than John, which is where the struggle comes in. The allegiance within the family is fascinating.
John is also petulant. He has a temper when he doesn’t get his way, and he snaps at people. He has a strong case of the youngest child syndrome - spoiled rotten as a kid and expects everything to go his way. As the oldest of six, this is a different place for me.
What about your spare time?
Last year, once we got the shows open, I discovered the beauty of the area. I went up to Cedar Breaks, and this year, I got my hiking started early. I don’t know of any other place where you can get to 2 or 3 national parks in a just 2-hour drive.
Why is live theatre important?
It’s something about language, live language that I don’t think we get when you’re watching a film or a TV show. There’s something about the shared experience, experiencing something with people that we don’t get when we’re at home on our sofa. It’s different every night. I tell my students - why do we go to Romeo & Juliet 8 to 10 times when we know how it ends? Because every time it’s different. The story through these bodies is going to be different. And for a second, it just might work out.
You can see Corey in King John beginning July 3 through August 30. Tickets are available online at www.bard.org and by calling 800-PLAYTIX. You can learn more about the play at http://www.bard.org/plays/john2013.html
Photos by Karl Hugh, copyright 2013 Utah Shakespeare Festival