“People don’t really get an opportunity like this.”
Tony Jones may sit like a ten year-old, but he thinks, speaks and writes like an old soul. Curled up on a plastic chair in the hallway of Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Columbia Heights, the fifth grader reflects on his time in our In-School Playwriting Program with the patient self-assurance of someone who implicitly trusts his own voice. “I think it’s fun,” he says of the program. “I get to do a lot of writing—I like writing, and I like reading.”
Tony, who has been at Tubman since Pre-K, shows an astonishing range of interests and talents—from writing “about [his] feelings” to playing point guard in basketball and nearly every position on the field in football. Tony may also have a budding acting career in the works: during the first playwriting workshop in his class, he played the role of Flatworm in a scene from the 2011 New Play Festival play, Flatworm’s Courageous Act.
This is the first year we are holding our In-School Playwriting Program at Tubman, a partnership that was a target of our Dream Impact Map. Since the program began in September, Tony has emerged as a standout young writer and an enthusiastic participant in our work. Fresh from completing his Workshop 5 antagonist worksheet, he eagerly shares the details of Super Strong, the villain he created. “I like my antagonist because he’s strong,” Tony notes, before adding, “He got nice shoes...”. Moreover, Super Strong is no mere evil archetype: his motivations, per Tony, are more nuanced and human. “He don’t want my protagonist...to shine because if he shines...my villain is gonna be nothing,” he says.
Despite his work on Super Strong and his protagonist, Superman, Tony envisions his final play to be an extension of the monologue he wrote about Cinderella from the perspective of Prince Charming. Tony’s play will pick up after Cinderella tries on the glass slipper, and be “about how happily they lived, and then...Cinderella’s gonna make her sisters end up cleaning up.”
Happy endings seem to be a theme in the life and work of Tony Jones, who keenly appreciates the successes he’s already had, even at such a young age. “I’m happy I made it,” he says with finality. “Because people don’t really get an opportunity like this.”