For a guy who moved to Charleston only last year, Nat Jones has made quite an impression on the local theatre community.
The artist, graphic designer, and copywriter got his foot in Charleston’s stage door with Arsenic and Old Lace, part of the Footlight’s 75th anniversary season. He didn’t disappoint in the crackpot role of Teddy Brewster, a character who thinks he’s Theodore Roosevelt.
Before becoming enamored with the Lowcountry, the 53-year-old Jones had appeared in over 20 plays in Philadelphia, winning awards and directing shows. But despite his experience in a city that has, in his estimation, “too many theatres,” he thinks that the caliber of producers, directors, and technical crew here is higher. “I’ve found a far more serious atmosphere here, and a professional attitude,” he says. “Theatre is the center of culture in Charleston, where everyone takes pride in the job they do and where they live.”
Jones’ memorable Teddy led to a role in Glengarry Glen Ross at the Village Playhouse, then PURE’s Pillowman and Colder than Here. As Alec, the frustrated husband of a dying woman who tries to be stoic in a terrible time, Jones carefully bridged the harsh and humorous elements of the play. “PURE’s a different breed altogether,” he says. “There’s nothing fake about them and they’re always provocative — the subject matter can be darker than what I’m used to. One of the duties of theatre is to kick people in their collective consciousness and look at universal concepts from a slightly different perspective, to get the audience thinking outside the box.”
Next up for Nat: a return to the Village Playhouse for A Christmas Story, in the role of Ralphie’s dad. “Despite my crusty exterior I’m sentimental about Christmas,” Jones admits. That crusty façade seems to be serving him well, judging by the parts he’s played in the past 12 months. “Acting is the ultimate creative exercise,” he believes. “I don’t think there’s any endeavor that makes you more vulnerable. You’re thrust together with a group of people, most of whom you don’t really know, for three or four months.”
The actor often finds the experience frustrating, but personally enriching as well. “There’s nothing more satisfying than when you’ve laid out all the textures, get on stage and nail the part.” Something that Jones does very well. — Nick Smith