Entertainer David C. Jones strives for diversity in LGBT theatre
It’s impossible to pin David C. Jones down as just one particular type of entertainer.
For nearly 20 years, the Vancouver-based writer, director, actor, producer, and comedian has been busy both on-stage and off, lending his creative mind to an ever-growing list of LGBT–focused theatre productions, TV shows, and movies, as well as a variety of charitable organizations.
Across the board, the one thing that seems to tie his incredibly diverse body of work together is his steadfast desire to make people laugh.
“When you’re trying to change the world, or change minds, it’s easier to make an impact when people are laughing,” Jones tells the Straight by phone.
Without question, he says, being an activist has always been an integral part of his craft as an entertainer.
Over the years, he’s made it his mission to ensure that Vancouver’s diversity is accurately reflected in his work, casting actors of varying ages and ethnic backgrounds in his productions.
Jones stresses that it’s in everyone’s best interest for theatre to reflect Vancouver’s multicultural makeup—not only because it makes it more believable for the audience, but also because it shows ethnic minorities that they, too, have a place on-stage.
“A man much smarter than me once said, ‘First, there is ignorance. Then, there is awareness, and then comes accountability.’ While many people are aware that Vancouver is 53 percent non-Caucasian, we now need to be accountable,” Jones says.
Earlier this year, he did just that: when directing Heathers: The Musical at the York Theatre, he made sure that his cast was exactly 53 percent non-Caucasian.
“It’s not just Asian people or black people that want to see themselves on-stage—white people are riding the bus with, walking down the street beside, and having relationships with people of colour, so it looks fake to them too.”
While he’s certainly proud of his contributions on the stage and silver screen, Jones’s pride and joy began to take shape 10 years ago, when he set out to create Vancouver’s first queer improv troupe. To date, he says it’s his proudest achievement.
Plastering signs throughout the city asking for participation from queer theatre enthusiasts, it began as an improv workshop, before morphing into the live show, Tops and Bottoms.
From the get-go, Jones made sure that his cast was as diverse as the audience it was performing for: its youngest performer was 17, while the eldest was 60.
“In the early days of the show, there was a young man who wrote me, saying he was in a really depressed state, and he was really thinking about suicide,” Jones says. “To see all those different gay people on-stage, working together and laughing, it changed him. He said to me, ‘Your show literally saved my life.’ That’s how important imagery is.”
Referencing the theme of his documentary short, “Laughing Behind Enemy Lines”, Jones says that it’s that imagery that has the potential to influence society.
“Social change isn’t done by politicians or activists; there’s a much more subversive front, which is the entertainer, who just by virtue of standing up on-stage and making people laugh, connects the people in the audience in that same experience,” Jones says. “When someone does something that makes five, 300, or 1,000 people go, ‘Ha’ at the same time, you’ve just introduced them to their human connectedness.”