Sunday, November 25, 2007

Jacqueline Jones Teaches Us Many Things in Her Responses to "The Questionnaire"

Posted by Billy Christopher Maupin

Theatre IV’s production of A Christmas Story opens this Friday at the beautiful, historic Empire Theatre. One of Richmond’s favorite ladies is featured as Miss Shields (well, at some performances, but I’ll let her explain that later). Jacqueline Jones, known to most as Jackie, you may remember from Deathtrap, Over the River and Through the Woods, or Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap at Barksdale Theatre at Hanover Tavern, or from Into the Woods at Barksdale Theatre at Willow Lawn, or perhaps even more likely, as Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle at Theatre IV (the first show I saw at the Empire Theatre). Jackie has taken on the Pivot/Lipton questionnaire and shared some fantastic stories!

1. What is your favorite word?


I like saying it different ways and in different voices and with different meanings. Have a whole conversation using only onomatopoeia. It's a good word. Honk.

I also like to say kiwi – and banana. Those are fun to say in different voices, too.

Mmeep, Mmeep.

2. What is your least favorite word?

Any word that is whined.

3. What turns you on [creatively, spiritually or emotionally]?

Cool crisp fresh air – autumn is my favorite season, spring is a close second. Unless it is spring. Then autumn is a close second.

Singing in tight harmonies when they are right – it takes me a long time to learn them, so when I finally get them, I feel pretty and enjoy a sense of accomplishment – pulling weeds does that for me too, but it's not as fun.

My mother and my best friend Walker always suggested that I'd better hone my acting skills 'cause I'd never make it as a singer. When I was in college (Boston University, SFA '78), I took Voice for Theatre Students from a BU School of Music opera teacher. She carried her dog, Chloe, to every class (hmmm, I cannot remember the teacher's name, but I'll never forget the dog's). The dog, a tiny little thing the teacher carried under her arm, was there to show us how to breathe. I am really good at panting. My jury song (that's just too fancy a word for what we did, but what else shall I call it?) was "Will You Remember (Sweetheart)?" Maybe you've heard a Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy recording of it. After I finished singing, our teacher turned to my fellow students and proudly proclaimed, "Now class, didn't we turn this sow's ear into a silk purse!" Hmmm.

I usually refer to myself as a character singer.

(Jackie and Walker pictured together to the right)

4. What turns you off?

Dishonesty. Betray my trust and your name is mud.

I almost included "Rudeness," too. But I console myself that if not for the varied people and behaviors in the world, character actors would be out of a job.

5. What sound or noise do you love?


Shhhh of the overhead fan as it cools me to sleep while I am under a heavy quilt.

Train whistle – we live just close enough to the tracks, but not too close.

My children's *happy* voices: their laughter and humming and storytelling. My kids are "all grown up" now. Their happy voices still make me reel. (Jackie's son Madison pictured at left)

The garage door late at night: everyone's home and I can sleep soundly.

6. What sound or noise do you hate?

The bass vibrating my car from someone else's vehicle … even after they've driven a block away.

Our dog whining.

7. What is your favorite curse word? (have it at it. I obviously won't post it for real, but in some approved somewhat censored fashion) (Note: Jackie did her own censoring)

My favorites are not ones I actually use; in fact people tend to apologize when they curse around me. Maybe I make them feel guilty.

I did not grow up in a cursing home.

(Jackie's mother, Bea, pictured to the right; Bea is on the left in the picture with her mother, Jackie's Oma, on the right)

Our kitchen was divided into two parts by a bar which housed the stovetop. One day when I was about 13, I was on one side of the divider at our table. My mother was on the opposite side where she was hidden by the open refrigerator door. She did not know I was present.

Suddenly there was a crash followed by "S#!+!"


Brief silence before her nonchalant, "Yes?"

I'd never heard my mother curse before and rarely since.

My college pal Bruce MacVittie (his birthday was October 14 – I always remember it because he told me no one ever remembered his birthday – part friendship, part challenge) is from Rhode Island. Oh boy, did he cuss! Those words just rolled off freely like I'd never heard (really never heard) before. Bruce wanted to teach me how to sling 'em too. We practiced. I learned to say "A$$H@!*" with a terrific New England accent just like his and one time I even tried it on for real. He glowed.

The German equivalent of "A$$H@!*" was my Oma's favorite and she taught it and all the other German curse words to her coworkers in the shoe department at Thalhimers where she and my Opa were tops. Oh the stories! I don't really like the word in German or English, but just the way Bruce MacVittie said it. Aside from that one time, I don't use it at all, but the "Sugar Honey Ice Tea" cuss has slipped from my lips on rare occasions.

One more cursing story. This one took place in 1982 on a Theatre IV tour of the musical The Golden Goose by Ford Flannagan; see him in Theatre IV's upcoming Peter Pan!

The cast included my current tag team Teacher in A Christmas Story. AnnaMarie Rossi and I share the role of Miss Shields in Theatre IV's upcoming holiday offering at the historic Empire Theatre (I do the weekday student matinees; she does weekend matinees and we split the evenings). In The Golden Goose, AnnaMarie played The Princess Who Could Not Smile. I portrayed Goldie, the Golden Goose, and at the time I was even still Jackie Goldberg. Hmmm, I wonder if Ford did that on purpose. Ford? We traveled with The Queen, The Guard, The Jester and Simpleton. All six actors but Goldie and Simpleton played multiple roles.

Ford, who wrote the book and lyrics and directed our show, was once quoted as saying, "the play is based on the Grimm stories about Simpleton and the Golden Goose. It has nothing to do with the goose that laid the golden egg.''

The publicity material said "The story takes place in a gloom-filled kingdom, the result of a spell cast by an evil Jester. The Queen holds a contest to find someone to break the spell, which can be done by making the melancholy Princess laugh. Simpleton, the hero of the tale, is aided by the title character."

The Queen was also our company manager on that tour. She was the liaison between Theatre IV and our venue contact person (usually a school "prince – i – pal" – ha-ha); she made big decisions on tour, a Queen Mother if you will. Coincidently, she is the person instrumental in my diligence in always wearing a seatbelt, even before it was a state law.

One of our Princes had major potty mouth. MAJOR. Our Queen on the other hand may as well have been called the Virgin Queen, my own dumb joke, because that title has little to do with the fact that she did not did not did not like cussing ... or overuse of the word hate. The Queen's disapproval of cursing fueled Mr. Potty Prince even more.

One day, his word du jour was … well … it was ... "f*%#wad." I'd never even heard that word. Have you? After hearing it all morning, our Queen went into a royal tizzy (she never raised her voice, even on this occasion) and decreed that the cursing must stop. It did. For a while. Until ... Later that day.

In our production of The Golden Goose, in an effort to make The Princess Who Could Not Smile happy again, the Queen throws a ball during which three Princes made cameo appearances to dance with The Princess Who Could Not Smile. Afterwards, she sings a lovely solo about when the good ol' days were so ... good, and how sad she is now. (Ford writes lyrics better than I do. He wrote Theatre IV's Little Red Hen, too. I was the title character in its premier in 1981. My sister Laura still asks me to twang the title song to her on the phone.) (Promo shot of The Little Red Hen at right, with Jackie at bottom left, AnnaMarie Rossi at left and Ford center, also pictured are Debbie Gale Taylor, seen as Joan's mother in Barksdale Theatre's production of The Lark last season, and Richard Travis)

Anyway, this particular show, the third dance partner, our very own Potty Prince, entered and twirled The Princess Who Could Not Smile as usual till the point at which he faced upstage (away from the audience). As The Princess Who Could Not Smile faced downstage, her face in full view of the audience, Potty Prince opened his mouth to reveal to her a tiny note neatly placed on his tongue, a tiny note with the word " f*%#wad " on it.

The Girl Who Could Not Smile must not smile now or the curse would be broken and the play would be over! So. She cried. And she cried and she cried. And she cried through her song and ran off stage "in tears." And her Queen mother did not know why the Princess was crying so hard since the Queen's throne was positioned where she could not see what had transpired. As you can imagine, this fairytale had no happy ending except that it is a good one to tell when someone asks about curse words.

I still hum that song sometimes.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I like to type. I edit a few newsletters, publicity and scripts on a volunteer basis. Sumpeen like dat, maybe? But just edit. Not write from scratch. That thing about writers sweating blood – not for me.

"Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." - Gene Fowler -

I am so thankful my Dad insisted I take typing. Nowadays with computers, keyboarding is a given for youngsters. But when I was growing up, typing was a high school elective. I didn't know then that nerve damage would eventually make writing difficult for me. But typing – piece o'cake.

While I attended BU, I picked up some secretarial classes at Fisher Jr. College, Evening Division. I took Stenoscript, a new (at that time) kind of shorthand that I never used again. I don't think anyone has ever used it. I still have the book. Oh! It holds two long-forgotten letters of recommendations from my teachers. In my typing class was a guy who wrote pornography for a living. His editor told him that if he didn't type better, he would lose his job. He didn't "look like" a pornographer.

9. What profession would you not like to do?

Proofreading. Makes me nervous. I MIGHT MISS SOMETHIINNG. Math makes me nervous, too.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

You finally made it; the children will be fine.

(Jackie's daughter, Jasmine, pictured to the left.)

Be sure to check out Jackie and the rest of the cast of A Christmas Story at Theatre IV at the historic Empire Theatre November 30 - December 23. For tickets, call the box office at 344-8040.

You can also check out Jackie online at


Bruce Miller said...

This interview made my Thanksgiving weekend. Since Jackie and I have been pals for more years that either of us cares to count, it was WONDERFUL to relive the stories. Oh the tales we all could tell.

ziegfeldgirl said...

And this interview made my mid-summer weekend, two and a half years later. I agree that typing is one of the most useful, satisfying things a person can ever learn, but I am so glad you chose to make your living in the theater instead of the typing pool.