Meet the Cast of ‘Painting Churches’ at Montgomery Playhouse: Part 1: David Jones

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In Part 1 of a series of interviews with the cast of Montgomery Playhouse’s Painting Churches, meet David Jones.

Left to Right: Jane Squier Bruns (Fanny Sedgwick Church), David Jones (Gardner Church), and Shanna Ridenour (Margaret “Mags” Church). Photo by David Jones.
Left to Right: Jane Squier Bruns (Fanny Sedgwick Church), David Jones (Gardner Church), and Shanna Ridenour (Margaret “Mags” Church). Photo by David Jones.

Joel: Where have local audiences seen you perform recently on the stage?

David: I was last seen as Officer Peterson in Montgomery Playhouse’s Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Goose. Other recent roles include God’s Favorite (Sidney Lipton), Driving Miss Daisy (Boolie Werthan), Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Gaston), Moonlight and Magnolias (Ben Hecht), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Tom Snowt), The Sisters Rosensweig (Mervin Kant), and The Boys Next Door (Norman).

Why did you want to be part of the cast of Painting Churches at Montgomery Playhouse?

I was interested in the role of  because it’s a terrific and challenging role for an older man. It’s the first time in a while I’ve played a character close to my real age. Also I’m a long time member of the Montgomery Playhouse and have always done what I can to support it.

Who do you play in the show? How do you relate to him?

I play Gardner Church. He is a world renowned poet and the family’s life has always revolved around him. As he has gotten older signs of dementia have crept in which have gotten progressively more pronounced. I relate to the role as an older man and I have been dealing with family members through the years whose powers have failed them.

What’s the show about from the point of view of Gardner?

Garner has stopped writing poetry since he hit a “dry spell” and finally launched into a book attempting to look at some of his favorite poets. He has been working on it for two years to the exclusion of all else. At the same time his wife has decided that they should move from their house on Beacon Hill to their cottage in Cotuit, Mass. He has tried to ignore this disruption. His daughter Margaret (Mags), a painter on the verge of greatness, has come to help with the move but also to paint her parents. He and Mags have always had a special relationship seeing the world in a visual way – he with verbal imagery and she with color. Most of the time he can’t understand why this move is necessary.

What is your favorite line or lines that your character says, and what is your favorite line that someone else says in the show?

My favorite line is, “You can’t just throw everything into a box like a pile of garbage!” when Fanny tires to pack his manuscript. Fanny later says to Mags, “What do you give him of yourself that costs you something?” – a question we should all ask when we care for someone.

What have you learned about yourself as an actor while preparing for your role and in rehearsals?

I’ve never been a true fan of poetry and for this play I’ve had to learn a good deal of it. I found out I rather like it if I take the time to delve into it’s meaning.

What have been some of the challenges you have had in rehearsals and how did your director Mary Beth Levrio help you to solve them?

The biggest challenge we all faced was when the actress originally cast in the role of Fanny had to drop out. We were incredibly lucky to get Jane Squier Bruns to take over the role; she is an actress of immense ability and talent. Mary Beth kept the ship moving, always being positive that we would be not just okay but great. For me personally the challenge is to portray Gardner’s struggle with his dementia without making him cartoonish. Mary Beth has been very good at helping me keep Gardner grounded and treating him with the respect he deserves.

What lessons and themes does Painting Churches have to offer the audience?

One of the themes of Painting Churches is not to judge people by their actions unless you’ve had a chance to understand why they do what they do. Walk around in their shoes a bit and try to understand.”See them as they really are.”

What are you doing next on the stage?

I’m producing The Montgomery Playhouse’s next offering – A Grand Night for Singing.

What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing Painting Churches?

I hope the audience appreciates the great deal of hard work everyone involved with the production has done. I also hope they leave the theater with the same degree of affection for these characters that I have developed and an understanding of the dynamics that make a family.

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Painting Churches plays November 6 – 22, 2015, at Montgomery Playhouse a and the City of Gaithersburg performing at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn – 311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg, MD. For tickets, call (301) 258-6394, or purchase them online.

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Joel Markowitz
Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, Children's theaters, professional, and community theatres. Joel is an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel is a proud member of The American Critics Association.