Artistic Director Statement

posted on Nov 17 2022

by Jo'Lisa Jones, Artistic Director

Artistic Director Statement

Fostering compassionate, inclusive and imaginative communities

Four years ago I never would have imagined being where I am today, bringing the joy and passion of theater to children. I have the privilege of working with a diverse range of communities from neurodiverse camps to affluent organizations to underserved schools. As an actor I’ve had the pleasure of exploring many different forms of theatre from the classics to devised.

As a proud Black and Puerto Rican woman I care more about sharing untold history and stories. That’s why in recent years I found myself delving deeper into theatre for social justice. Theatre for social justice provides the world opportunities to be exposed in a responsible way to underrepresented cultures that is both exciting and educational. When I took in the world around me I didn't like what I saw. Even theatre, which was often a safe haven for marginalized communities, was problematic. Being a "woke" person is en vogue, yet most of the people in power are still white cisgender men who expoilt marginalized communities as marketing tools. They pat themselves on the back, meanwhile they display tokenism, cultural appropriation, pay discrimination, and microaggressions.

I need theater to care more about why we are telling underrepresented stories, who are the people creating them and how equitable the process is. I was at a crossroads in my career, either continue my career solely being an actor or start my journey to become an Artistic Director. While performing will always be my first love I realized the greater impact lies elsewhere. This brought me to mainstages where I started as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator. In my time here I have focused my efforts on developing inclusive programming, ensuring equitable hiring practices, and cultivating a more diverse staff. I am excited to expand my efforts and guide mainstages in a new but familiar direction. Here’s what you’ll see:

  • Inclusive programs that explore theater and socioemotional development through a culturally responsive lens.
  • Innovative performances that feature underrepresented stories and provide participants with the tools of empathy and independence.
  • Unified vision through yearly themes.
  • Introduce our community to new forms of theater that align with the interactive nature you all know and love.
  • A vast network of staff and employees that are from diverse backgrounds, identities and abilities so that any child can see themselves represented in our community.

mainstages has always committed to the growth of children through our programming and performances. We have been driven by the values that make theater an integral part of an educational experience. My goal is to expand upon this mission and consider the education of a child holistically. Theater can create a solid foundation for children to learn vital skills in life, like public speaking, problem solving, teamwork and collaboration. Theater also has the power to build confidence, foster empathy, educate anti-bias practices and aid in their socioemotional development.

Inclusivity is a huge part of our mission moving forward. Often theater can be inaccessible to underserved, underrepresented and disabled communities. We will commit to expanding our reach and diversifying our services to better serve these populations. I strive to produce programming and performances that are responsive to each community’s needs, are relevant to children’s development as well as contemporary culture and provide a transformative experience that is both insightful and exciting. I am committed to decentralizing the voice of the dominant culture. Instead, we will prioritize stories and experiences from underrepresented and marginalized communities. I want mainstages to be a place where BIPOC, queer, disabled and kids of all identities see themselves represented in the work we do and faces they see.

Our goal is to foster inclusive communities built on compassion and imagination. The next generation should have a safe space where they can confidently explore their imaginations, express their individuality and possess the tools to create a better future.

Jo'Lisa Jones

posted on Nov 17 2022

by Jo'Lisa Jones

Jo'Lisa brings her experience as an NYC actor and theatre activist to her work as Artistic Director. She is recognized for her creativty, dedication to diversity, equity and inclusivity, and fostering relationships with innovative artists. Jo'Lisa has performed with many NYC theaters and partnered with organizations that specialize in elevating the voices of marginalized communities. She has used applied theatre to work closely with people of all races, genders, and neuro-diversities. Jo'Lisa co-founded and now is President of the Board of EMIT Theatre Company. She is passionate about continuing to build a safe, inclusive, innovative and educational mainstages community.