MR. JOY reflects on the power of maintaining hope and faith through tragedy
CINCINNATI—Dayton native Daniel Beaty’s inspiring play MR. JOY will run from Sept. 23 through Oct. 22 at the Shelterhouse Theatre. In this contemporary drama, a single actress plays all nine characters, whose stories remind us of the power of community.
MR. JOY tells the compelling tale of a Chinese shoe-shop owner in Harlem who falls victim to a sudden and violent attack. Though the audience never meets Mr. Joy, they meet nine neighbors and area residents affected by the tragedy.
Beaty drew inspiration for the stage drama from real-life experiences. While living in New York as a struggling actor and artist, he used to take his shoes to a Chinese-American shop owner for repairs.
“He worked magic,” Beaty says. “I’d take my one pair of fancy, beat-up shoes into his shop, and they’d come out like new. One morning I woke up and the shop was boarded up and there was caution tape around the outside. I asked my neighbors what happened and people said, ‘You know, we think somebody attacked him.’ I never saw anything in the newspaper but it lived with me for a lot of years. I eventually wrote this play that asks the question, ‘What happened to Mr. Joy?’”
Beaty sets out to answer that question through the lens of characters who have different worldviews and personal experiences. In this way, Beaty invites the audience to explore the idea of how individuals are connected in the face of social and cultural forces.
“Most of my work deals with themes of race and class in America, and this was a Chinese-American man who had a shoe repair shop for many years in a largely African-American neighborhood,” says Beaty. “The possibility and the gift of artistry is to put those ideas in flesh and blood, in a character that’s dimensional in human form, and then create a well-crafted story that has humor, that has a lot of humanity, that sees the characters’ relationships with one another, that sees the characters fighting to overcome obstacles.”
All nine characters are portrayed poignantly by Debra Walton, whom audiences will remember from Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park productions Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Beehive. Skillfully and stirringly, Walton portrays adolescents and adults who span the spectrum of age, gender, ethnicity, class and identity.
Directed by Nicole Watson, MR. JOY weaves a sense of mystery into a series of personal narratives that lead up to understanding exactly what happened to the beloved community member. MR. JOY reminds us that there are always invisible ties that bind us together.
Beaty’s work returns to the Playhouse after he wrote and performed Through the Night in 2012. He is also a singer, filmmaker, poet, performance artist and activist who uses art as a tool for healing and social transformation.
Opening Sept. 28 (with public previews starting on Sept. 23), the production runs at the Shelterhouse Theatre at the Playhouse through Oct. 22.
Prices for MR. JOY start at $35 depending on seat location and performance day and are subject to change. Tickets for teens and students are $30. Student tickets are $15 on the day of the show. Sunday is College Night, with tickets to all 7 p.m. performances just $10. In addition to calling the Box Office, you can also purchase tickets by visiting the Playhouse website at www.cincyplay.com.
Production Sponsors are Digi and Mike Schueler. Shelterhouse Theatre Season is presented by Heidelberg Distributing Company. Season Sponsor of New Work is the Rosenthal Foundation. Shelterhouse Theatre Season Design Sponsors are Allan Berliant and the Jennie Rosenthal Berliant Family Fund.
The Playhouse is supported by the generosity of more than 40,000 contributors to the ArtsWave Community Campaign. The Ohio Arts Council helps fund the Playhouse with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. The Playhouse also receives funding from the Shubert Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
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CREATING ART FOR SOCIAL CHANGE
Oct. 9, 7 p.m.
Free and open to the public (with prior registration)
Beaty’s artistic mission includes using art as a tool to enact social change and to inspire citizens to become changemakers in their own community. Join local artistic organizations and performing and visual artists as they showcase their work created to engage others in social issues. Featured artists will participate in a panel about their experiences, challenges and triumphs. Please call the Playhouse Box Office at 513-421-3888 to reserve your spot. The Playhouse Perspectives series is supported by a generous grant from Roderick and Barbara Barr.
MASTER THE CRAFT OF ORAL STORYTELLING
Oct. 14, 10 a.m.
$50 (full workshop) $35 for storytelling lessons only
Our lives are full of compelling stories that others are waiting to hear. True Theatre of Cincinnati will host an oral storytelling workshop in conjunction with the Playhouse to help you find your story and share it with others. Through a comprehensive, three-hour workshop, learn the essentials of oral storytelling that will engage listeners, initiate discussion and create a sense of community. The first part of the workshop features True Theatre artists providing lessons on the building blocks of storytelling. The second part will feature a participatory workshop in which 10 participants will have their stories and performances shaped and perfected in front of the entire group. Space is limited to 60 people for this event. To register, call the Playhouse Box Office at 513-421-3888. If you’d like your story to be considered for critique, be sure to be one of the first 10 people to register. Registration for attendance is $35 without participatory workshop, and registration for attendance including participatory workshop is $50.