Polanco Jones, Jr. hasn’t let the pandemic slow him down. Jones, a New Orleans based actor, director and choreographer and 2015 theatre graduate from Northwestern State University, was recently named Theatre Person of the Year as part of the annual Big Easy Awards presented by Gambit, a weekly publication in New Orleans.
Gambit said over the past year, Jones has produced music videos and completed his master’s in museum studies. He joined the New Orleans Jazz Museum, focusing on theatrical inclusion and museum innovation and helping launch a Hispanic Heritage Festival. Jones choreographed projects and joined a local burlesque company as creative director. He directed and choreographed Cameron-Mitchell Ware’s one-man show “The Wake-Up Call,” which will be presented by InFringe Fest in December.
“This type of recognition only pushes me to work harder, to strive for the creation of innovative theatre, and to continue advocating for accurate representation and anti-racist practices,” said Jones. “It informs me that my work as a creator is valid and that what I have been blessed to share as a performer has been received.”
Jones said he has been able to stay busy and positive during the pandemic.
“It has been a balance of self care, creative expression, stillness and an exploration of the new,” he said. “I maintain yoga practice for both my physical and mental advancement. I realized this stage of life was a lot like yoga, although there were moments of prolonged stillness if held with integrity that stillness would bring about growth and more accessibility. As a multi-disciplinary theatre maker I’ve been blessed to forge forward with the production of a myriad of works that have kept me busy.”
The variety of projects Jones has been involved with has shown his versatility which continues to pay dividends for him.
“I have had an abundance of success as a theatre practitioner because I am proficient at a variety of skills,” said Jones. “It’s allowed me to feel like I’ve never had to ‘look look’ for a job because there was always something worth doing within my skill set being offered. I feel you never stop learning. I am always looking to acquire new skills.”
Jones said Northwestern State’s theatre and dance program provided him with an important foundation.
“Northwestern taught me not to put myself in a box nor limit my potential,” he said. “I learned to stand up for myself and my art. The university provided a playground to implement creative problem solving with a diverse choose your own adventure style of curriculum that encouraged versatility.”
Jones has also created, produced and toured with original dance work “FEAST: A fully immersive dance art exhibition” that was nominated by Gambit for best full-length dance work and picked by the Scranton Fringe Festival. He co-conceived, choreographed and directed the theatrical installation “Excuse Me Hello” featuring Vogue Cover Model Andre J. presented by 651 Arts at The Brooklyn Academy of Music of World Pride.
Jones is resident choreographer for Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Music Theater and Juke Box Castle Productions, overseas choreographer for the Downtown Kingston Music Theatre, a project supported by the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, and was a featured guest artist for the Prime Minister of Jamaica. He received awards for outstanding production from iTheatrics in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2020 and for excellence in dance in 2017 and 2019.