When Bringing Your Child to Work Becomes Theatrical
Director Kennikki Jones-Jones is already in rehearsals for Blessed: A Christmas Carol Adaptation produced by Black and Brown Theatre, a Detroit based theatre company creating opportunities for theatre artists of color and their respective communities. Jones-Jones has curated a vision for the play that will resonate with Detroiters and enable audiences to bring the entire family along to this modern retelling of the timeless tale written by playwright Julianna Gonzalez.
But the family aspect isn’t limited to the audience; Jones-Jones is bringing her own son, Phoenix, to rehearsals as he makes his Black and Brown Theatre debut as Tim, a mature eight-year-old child who is forced to grow up quickly as his father works long hours for the business-minded modern protagonist Ebony Scrooge. In this adaptation, Tim’s mother is deported while in the process of working toward American citizenship because she is Dominican-born.
Thankfully, Phoenix is in a different situation than his character as he is able to spend quality time with his mother every rehearsal. Black and Brown Theatre Artistic Director Emilio Rodriguez sat down with director Kennikki Jones-Jones to talk about her experiences directing this timely, family-friendly script.
Emilio Rodriguez: How has the experience been directing your son alongside a cast of adult actors?
Kennikki Jones-Jones: The experience working with my son Phoenix alongside adult actors keeps me aware of the different styles of communication that I use for particular moments either with adults or children. Language and inflection play a large part within that difference. Phoenix is very curious so I don’t discount his ability to grasp concepts because he will ask for clarification if doesn’t understand, the same as an adult.
Emilio: How does your son feel about the whole process? I know he’s done some camera work, but this is his first paid gig as a theatre artist.
Kennikki: He is excited to be earning money. There was a moment when he wanted to stay home from rehearsal but I had to connect his payment to his work and without pause, he grabbed his coat and waited for me at the door.
Emilio: For those who don’t know, he’s getting paid the same stipend as the adults because he’s doing the same amount of work. Does he already know what he’s buying with his stipend?
Kennikki: Yes, he has budgeted his stipend because his father is great at making sure he knows what his money is doing and that saving is a priority.
Emilio: I know you and your husband are both busy artists. What are some of the benefits of being able to bring your son to work with you?
Kennikki: A benefit to being able to bring my son to work with me is that he gets to see what I do as a director and why I either come home tired or pumped. Also, I don’t have to stress out about finding a babysitter.
Emilio: Sounds like a lot of positives. Are there any challenges?
Kennikki: The biggest challenge with having my son at rehearsals is when he isn’t working on stage. Managing his need for my attention during the moments I am working with others.
Emilio: How do you think more theatre companies would benefit from creating environments where parents can bring their children to rehearsals?
Kennikki: The benefit: Parents can have deeper conversations (with their children) regarding their day at work.
Black and Brown Theatre’s performance of Blessed: A Christmas Carol Adaptation performs Sunday December 15 at 1pm at Scarab Club in midtown Detroit and Thursday December 19 at 7pm at Marygrove in Detroit. Admission to both performances is free. Donations can be made via the company’s website: www.blackandbrowntheatre.org