By Stephen Woosley, MadLab Publicity Director
James Blackmon has become MadLab Theatre’s interim Artistic Director and is directing Snowville Café by Julie Whitney-Scott, Feb. 2-18. We chatted with him about how he’s putting his own stamp on things at the theater.
Stephen: What inspired you to first get into theater?
James: When I was 11, a friend of mine was active in our local children’s and community theater. It all just sounded like a lot of fun. I’d seen some children’s theater shows, and it all looked like fun. I was a creative kid with a vivid imagination. And a natural performer, as well, putting on shows for my family since I was four. I wanted to do what my friend was doing. So, I went to an audition, made the show and the rest is history.
Stephen: What were your theater experiences before you came to Columbus?
James: Lots of community and children’s theater growing up. Then I got my BA in theatre from the University of Alabama. During that time, I did a season at an outdoor drama in Galveston, Texas, and I was in the rock show at Action Park (yes, that Action Park!) in the 80s.
Stephen: What brought you to Columbus?
James: Graduate school at Ohio State. I went to L.A. right after college graduation but after a year I was tired of it. So, I applied to a few grad schools. OSU was the first to offer me a fellowship, so that’s where I went. That was in 1991.
Stephen: You run JB3Entertainment. What do you feel distinguishes JB3 in the Columbus theater scene?
James: JB3Entertainment is named after me. I’m JB3 – James Blackmon, III. It’s literally my entertainment. My work is passionate, compelling and emotional. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and hopefully leave the theater with some things to think about. I’m a firm believer in non-traditional casting so our shows definitely look different. Also, JB3, focuses on telling the stories of women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+. I don’t know any other theater in town with that specific focus.
Stephen: What brought you to MadLab?
James: An opportunity to direct. I was already familiar with MadLab – their work, their sensibilities, the artistic focus, etc. I thought it would be a really cool place to do theater and I wanted to be involved. Through my connections with the Theatre Roundtable, I got to know some people there and put in a request to direct. I directed my first show there in 2019. And here I am.
Stephen: What inspires you to continue to create?
James: I’m a storyteller. Even as a musician, the goal for me is to tell the story in the song. At some point during college at Alabama, I realized the power of theatrical storytelling. We uplift. We inspire. We plant seeds of change. We ignite the spirit. We touch the soul. We tickle the funny bone. We rouse the tears. We do all that by telling compelling, honest, human stories. And, as long as there are voices to be heard with stories to tell, I’m inspired to tell them.
Snowville Café, directed by James Blackmon, performs Feb. 2-4, Feb. 10-11 and Feb. 17-18 at 8 p.m. at MadLab Theatre. Admission is $20, or $17 for students and senior citizens, $15 for members. Tickets available at madlab.net/tickets.html.