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Inspired by the true story of a twin boy who was raised as a girl after a botched circumcision, Anna Ziegler’s Boy hones in on a betrayal of lead character Adam’s personhood that pierces beyond aspects of anatomy, religion and culture, reaching that profound place inside where he understands his identity.
John Jones, currently starring in the Keegan Theatre production of Boy, wasn’t certain about taking on Adam’s complex journey, even after auditioning for the part at the behest of casting director Kurt Boehm. “It took me a couple of read-throughs to convince myself that I wanted to do this,” says Jones, a Catholic University senior making their professional D.C. theater debut. “But, honestly, I see a lot of theater in D.C., and not too often do we see stories that explore gender in this way. That was interesting to me, and getting the opportunity to do that. So that definitely very much attracted me to this piece.”
Jones, who identifies as non-binary gender-fluid, also credits director Susan Marie Rhea’s hopeful, positive approach to the material as a major incentive for stepping into Adam’s shoes. “I think what she tries to do is bring a level of humanity to a story that kind of seems out of most people’s realm of possibilities. [Adam’s] trying to be a normal person and have a happy life. It’s just these are his struggles getting in the way, and getting to see that onstage is very interesting, I think.”
The onstage dialogue about gender and identity has provoked heartfelt discussion offstage, too, not only among the cast and creative team, but, as Jones notes, between the company and the audience. “One of the patrons said to me at the end of one of the shows, ‘This story, while it’s very specific, you really helped me understand what it must be like for children growing up trans and what their experience is.’ So I think that that is very important, and that helped me come to terms with some of that myself.”
Indeed, Jones admits that “it was hard to grasp at first what message the show was necessarily sending, and how it could be interpreted.” Ultimately, they feel the play “strongly paints the reality” of Adam’s gender experience in a way that fulfills the story’s purpose.
“I do art for a reason and try to make people see something different, or provide a sense of empathy with a story they may not be able to comprehend otherwise. So I guess that would be what I see my responsibility in this role to be.”
Boy runs through March 7 at The Keegan Theatre, 1742 Church St. NW. Tickets are $36 to $46. Call 202-265-3767, or visit www.keegantheatre.com.
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