Actor Corey Jones takes a deep look at his Shakespearean character
It takes one passionate actor to agree to play the same role twice, but when Artistic Director of Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Marco Barricelli, asked Corey Jones if he would star as Othello for the second time in his career, Jones jumped at the opportunity.
A resident actor at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria for the last three years, Jones earned his acting chops with a wide variety of roles ranging from Max Dettweiler in “The Sound of Music,” to Macbeth, to Aslan in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” But it was not until he scored the role of Othello at PCPA, that he discovered his true passion for Shakespeare.
“It’s heralded as one of his great plays for a reason,” says Jones. “As an actor, you’re always looking for those meaty roles, and in ‘Othello’ you can trust the language to do most of the work.”
The tragedy centers on the doomed romance of Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian Army, and his new wife Desdemona, the daughter of a senator. Though their marriage should have represented a victory over racial intolerance, Othello’s devious aide Iago uses the union to exact revenge upon him, turning their love into lethal jealousy.
“Desdemona and Othello truly love each other and have risked a lot for each other despite the odds—their difference in race, their different values as far as how they were raised, their lack of approval from her father, which was a big breach of tradition in Venice, and the fact that he is a military man,” says Jones. “Yet there is a morsel of doubt supplanted in Othello’s mind by Iago which causes a downward spiral leading to both of their deaths; that’s the tragedy of it.”
While Jones believes that we can all learn from Othello’s ruin, it is his true love connection with Desdemona that we should try to emulate. In a society that sometimes values online dating over soul mates, Jones wonders if that level of commitment still exists.
“Othello and Desdemona open their hearts to each other, and that courage, that type of love … it’s hard to tell if we have that anymore,” he says. “Relationships today are like two or three year interviews, and all of the jealousy, deception, mistrust and miscommunication that Shakespeare was writing about in the 1600s, we still struggle with in 2010.”
While Jones has made a name for himself playing tragic heroes, he can hardly resist the opportunity to let loose with humorous roles like Anthony Dull in this season’s “Love’s Labor’s Lost.” Juggling parts in two vastly different Shakespeare Santa Cruz plays can be time-consuming, but he would not have it any other way.
“‘Love’s Labor’s Lost’ is the complete other side of the spectrum—I only have 10 or 12 lines, but it provides for a moment of levity; I get to be silly,” he says. “Instead of being a constable in the 1600s, I’m a 21st century campus policeman who is not the sharpest tool in the shed; after all, if you’re named Anthony Dull you’re doomed for life.”
Though it can be difficult to transition from one role to the other, Jones believes that it does wonders for his mood after rehearsing an especially difficult or tragic scene in “Othello.” Rather than taking home all of those feelings of deception and emotional strife, he can head over to the “Love’s Labor’s Lost” rehearsal and laugh it off.
“At times I’ll be going over my ‘Othello’ lines with Anthony’s lisp,” he laughs. “And some days the plays are scheduled for the same day, so I’ll be thinking, ‘OK who am I now?’”
All joking aside, the Chicago native should have no problem balancing his workload, having acted for nearly two decades since his freshman year of high school. “I got bit by the acting bug early,” he says. And while he has big dreams of landing an acting gig in New York or Los Angeles sometime in the future, for now, he is fully dedicated to making this ‘Othello’ performance his best yet.
“It’s a wonderful cautionary tale about trusting instincts, deception and pure love” he says. “We’re a bit more sophisticated today, but we fall into the same types of situations as Othello.”
For more information, visit shakespearesantacruz.com.