By Nadine Matthews
Special to the AFRO
Prolific theater, film and television writer Patricia Jones felt the presence of God when she went to see her first Tyler Perry play, “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” years ago in Washington, D.C., at the invitation of a friend. “I heard God so clearly,” she told the AFRO. “He told me to stay when the show was over.” Jones obeyed and was rewarded. After the play ended she waved her friends off and stood waiting in the lobby’s dwindling crowd, for whatever it was God had in store for her. One of the actors eventually walked up and invited her backstage.
This led to meeting Perry and interning for his play, and then became much bigger. “Every show that came to town after that, I would knock on their door and ask if they needed help in any way,” she explained. Jones interned on numerous plays that toured in D.C., learning the ropes of playwriting and producing.
One of the plays was produced by playwright and producer David Talbert (Jingle Jangle) who saw something in Jones. He has been her mentor for 13 years. “When he moved to L.A., I became his creative assistant on several projects and got first-hand experience with professional theater and film from working with him.”
Outside of this, Jones, a Baltimore native was busy launching her own work wherever she could. “I always produced plays with my church and worked at different schools where I wrote plays for the kids.”
Jones knows that writing is what she was always meant to do. “I can clearly remember writing from when I was eight or nine, Even now, there are stacks of composition books in my parents’ attic.” She adds, “People I went to high school with, people who know me from church say to me now, ‘you always had a pen and paper in your hand.’”
Her father encouraged her interest in drama. “He took me to plays all the time.” I also had an aunt who was an actress.
People often came into her life to help her. “It was just God orchestrating people in my life to plant seeds in me, to make me feel like I could do anything: to teach me the business, to teach me the work ethic I needed to succeed in this business.”
Jones explained that mentors have played a huge role in allowing her to consistently create and showcase her talents. “Chuck West, who is a producer, gave me my first job touring. Tony-winning director George Faison cast me in an acting role. Stacy Evans Morgan gave me my first professional job writing for television after she came to see one of my plays. She also introduced me to her brother [TV producer] Bentley Kyle Evans.”
There is something else, not often talked about, that Jones said working closely with these mentors taught her. “It taught me ownership,” she said. “The importance of owning and creating your own work, of not waiting for permission. Every project I’ve done I’ve written myself.”
She also did not wait for others to choose to put her work out there. “I invested in myself,” she states. “I started out in L.A. putting on my plays in blackbox theaters in North Hollywood.” Jones financed it with money she earned at her nine to five at a nonprofit. “I just kept putting my plays up and that’s how I met so many amazing actors and so many people.”
Some of those people include singers Kenny Latimore and Cindy Heron and they both appear in Jones’ juicy new series Stuck With You, airing on Allblk.tv. It centers around a glamorous married couple (played by Queen Sugar’s Timon Kyle Durrett and Tammy Townsend of Love Is __), who seem to be on top of the world, but whose world is in fact teetering off the edge of a cliff. Latimore, after seeing one of Jones’ plays, invested in it. “That came from me investing in myself and showing people what I could do with what I had.
One of the biggest lessons from her experiences, she said, is that, “People respect hard work more than we realize. Although they may not have seen my projects I’m able to share that I’ve produced and directed numerous projects. So they already know I’ll put in the work, that I’m committed and that I’m serious about growing.”
Jones urges aspiring writers and producers to work with what they’ve got, instead of waiting for all the fans, money and followers. You can create great work right now. “I like to create work that’s honest and relatable. In addition to entertaining, I hope that people connect to something they see that helps give perspective, inspires hope in love, and shines light on who they are and who they can become; all through universal tales told through the eyes of African American characters.”
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