Pew Fellow of the Week: An Interview with Theater Artist Rhodessa Jones


Rhodessa Jones, 2020 Pew Fellow. Photo by Emily Fitzgerald.

Our “Pew Fellow of the Week” series focuses on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges.  

Based in San Francisco, theater performer, director, teacher, and writer Rhodessa Jones is a Fellow-in-Residence who will begin her one-year residency in Philadelphia next year. Jones (2020) spoke to us about being drawn to art early in life in a family of Black migrant workers, why she makes work for and with other women, and what she hopes to accomplish during her time in Philadelphia. This interview was transcribed from an audio recording and edited for length and clarity. 

Since 1979, she has been the co-artistic director of San Francisco performing arts organization Cultural Odyssey. In 1989, she founded The Medea Project, for which she serves as artistic director, developing performance pieces with incarcerated women and women who are HIV-positive. Her solo work includes the Bessie Award-winning Big Butt Girls, Hard Headed Women, which has toured globally. 

Rhodessa Jones Q&A Block 1

Rhodessa Jones Q&A Block 2

Rhodessa Jones Q&A Block 3

Rhodessa Jones Q&A Block 4

How do you think or hope your practice might evolve during your residency? 

As I face my eighth decade, I would hope that the time I spend in Philadelphia will be a time of sharing what I know on a larger scale. I'm open to lectures about my work. I'm open to writing. I would like to write a book about this particular Fellowship, because I think it's amazing to be chosen to do this and to have the down time, in Philadelphia away from my home in San Francisco, to do a lot of self-examination and hopefully come up with another handbook. Right now, I'm finishing up Nudging the Memory: Making Theater with Incarcerated Women, which is a mixture of acting techniques as well as my autobiography. I'm curious to see, will I be able to give birth to another book, another series of conversations about all the things I just described? 

I hope that in meeting folks and being in a position where I can just live and be and create in Philadelphia that I will sense an elevation that I can share with the communities there.

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