Professor pens award winning play

Sunday, September 19th 2004, 2:47 pm
By: News On 6

ADA, Okla. (AP) _ Bret Jones, an assistant professor of speech and drama at East Central University, recently received the Garrard Best Play Award from the Five Civilized Tribes Museum for a play he wrote titled ``Kindred.''

The story of ``Kindred'' centers on a Creek Indian who has been accused of murder.

``It is a play set in the 1920s in the mythical town of Lyle, Oklahoma,'' Jones said. ``A Creek Indian has been accused of murdering a couple of migratory workers and is assigned a defender. That is the basic story line, so it is trying to discover who's actually the murderer, but it also has use of the Creek language and it also has a couple of characters that are similar to the Creek chorus and they give us a lot of the Creek past, along with things about the Creek culture.

``It has a mix of a lot of different types of stories. There is the romance element, but there is a mystery to solve. There is a lot of Gospel singing in it, there is some Creek Hymnal singing at the end of it and the Creek culture, which is a part of it as well.

``I wrote it early in the summer and entered it in this contest and was notified by the director that it won the award,'' he said.

``I plan on producing it here (ECU) in a couple of years. Right now, I am in the process of producing three original plays here at East Central that are all set in the same mythical Oklahoma town that deal with different stories and time periods.''

Being a member of the Muscogee (Creek) tribe helped Jones in writing his play.

``I have been fascinated by the culture and the language, and I decided that it was time for me to write a story with a native character,'' he said. ``I wasn't raised learning the language or raised in the culture necessarily.

``It has always kind of been on the outskirts, and it was something that we were definitely proud of, and it is nice to know that you have that heritage, but in the last two or three years it has become more important to me to know more and to learn more. I want to absorb more about the history, the heritage, the language and what is going with the tribe now.''

He was officially notified Aug. 26, and he said it was a proud moment in his career.

``It was amazing and a rush to know that something that you created is pleasing and entertaining to another human being. That is the whole purpose of writing in the first place, is to share your stories and your work with an audience or a reader or whatever it is in hopes that they will get something from it. There is no better high than having someone call and say, 'Hey, your work is good.'''

Two key elements to writing a play, Jones said, are telling the story and having the characters evolve. Jones had to focus on these in his play.

``In this play 'Kindred,' I had been thinking about the play for a year. Things would play out, and characters would evolve in my mind,'' he said. ``When I finally felt like I had it all sorted out, I sat down and wrote it within a week because I had been thinking about it for so long. I had been contemplating it and trying to plan it out.

``A lot of my time when I am writing, my current mood affects the flow of the river where it is going and how it is going to work and how it fits together,'' Jones said. ``I usually know the beginning pretty well and the end pretty well. It is the middle that is not quite as solid. So there may be a lot of discoveries that I may make in the process of writing.''

``My primary focus as a writer is to offer something that is entertaining, whether it be tragic, dramatic or comedic, whatever it is. It is nice to go and watch this imaginary tale unfold before you. This play deals with how native people were looked at in the '20s, which is very dark and they're not really looked at in a very good light.

``It's not preachy in that respect. It's not about trying to hammer a message into anybody. It is really about trying to figure out is this guy guilty or is he not, and that is really the primary focus. It is grounded in useful factual events and not necessarily based on an actual story, but it is a part of Oklahoma history. It is a part of our past and our heritage. It shapes what we were and who we were and who we are and what we are today.''

Jones has written six plays, including ``The Isolation House,'' which was chosen to be performed at The American Theater of Actors in New York City in 2001. It was produced at ECU in 1999. His other plays are ``The Onyx Sky,'' ``Homefront,'' ``Too Many Tomorrows'' and ``The Thespian.''

Plays are not the only facet of Jones' writing talents. He has written two mystery novels. ``The Cowboy Culprit'' is set to be released, and ``The Hawksaw Chronicles'' was published in July of 2002.

He has penned two movies: ``Red Dust _ The Movie'' and ``The Mouth of the Lion,'' which was awarded fourth place at The Oklahoma Film Festival in 2003.

Jones also has a book of poetry titled ``From a Dark Corner of the Stage.''