Tuesday, July 12, 2016

UVI Celebrates 25th Anniversary of the Play – “Heaven”

Cynthia (Nyaila Callwood) returns to find Tony ( Paul Maynard Jr.)
consoling Dilys (Nastassia Jones) after she confronts him about
cheating on her.

Full-time Professor, Part-time Actor: Nastassia Jones Gives Acting a Shot...

A play about love and deception set in a discotheque called Heaven, the play features three UVI students, a UVI senior actor and UVI professor, Nastassia Jones.

Dr. Jones came to UVI last year after serving as an assistant professor of biology at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, AR. Now at UVI, Dr. Jones is an assistant professor of science education and managing director of the VI

Institute for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education Research and Practice.

As a full-time faculty member, Dr. Jones doesn’t have a lot of free time on her hands, but that didn’t stop her from pursuing the opportunity to play the role of Dilys in the play, “Heaven.” It was a huge time commitment, but a rewarding experience, she said.

Dr. Jones was accustomed to speaking in front of people as a professor, but she had no previous acting experience. The opportunity came about when, as she was stepping into her car at the end of a long work day, Edgecombe asked her if she had ever been an actor. “I was like, no, not at all,” said Dr. Jones. But Edgecombe was not deterred. He told her what he was looking for, and shared a rough verbal sketch of the character. “He asked me to read some lines and I said ‘sure!’”
Tony (Paul Maynard Jr.) is smoothing things over with
Cynthia (Nyaila Callwood) despite his wife
coming out for their Anniversary celebration.

“I read the lines at practice and I was like, this isn’t going to work. But all the other actors seemed to think that it did work, and that I was perfect for the part. I thought about it for a couple of days before I decided to give it a shot.”

“My favorite part about this entire experience was the audience engagement when we performed. You could hear them laugh during the show, which meant that we were into our characters and were believing us,” Dr. Jones said.

At the end of every play, Edgecombe would ask the audience for feedback. “He [Edgecombe] is a teacher. He’s an educator,” said Dr. Jones. “So any correction is from a place of perfection, a place of teaching us what we’re supposed to be doing and how to learn.”

This year in St. Thomas, the cast performed under a new lighting system at the UVI Little Theater. On April 19, the cast of Heaven recorded a digital version that is now available on DVD. “The lighting system upgrade really contributed to making the digital version possible.,” Dr. Jones said.

Dr. Jones doesn’t know if she will star in the next UVI production, but she is loving her time at UVI. “I love it here and I love my job,” she said. “I’m hoping that this will be a place in which I can continue to grow.”

Sam (Jerome Kendall) tries to persuade
(Khalarni Rivers) to see things his way.
In the weeks leading up to the play, which premiered at the Little Theater on St. Thomas, the cast rehearsed five to six hours a week, including on weekends. Dr. Jones played Dilys, Tony’s wife and a mother of three who chooses not to acknowledge that her husband is cheating on her. “I couldn’t connect to the character superficially,” Dr. Jones said. “But I had to revisit my childhood experience in order to play this particular role since my mom is a mother of three. Once I embraced that, it made everything else easier.”