by Liltera R. Williams
Actress Ella Joyce, best known for her co-starring role of Eleanor on FOX TV’s “Roc”, and Jasmine on “My Wife & Kids”, will headline the 4th Annual Aurora Jacksonville Black Arts Festival in her highly acclaimed, one-woman play, A Rose Among Thorns. The one-act presentation, created and performed by Joyce and directed by her husband, Dan Martin, aims to spread a message of love and good will to everyone, as she captures key moments in the life of Rosa Parks.
During the “chat with Auntie Rosie”, Joyce also mentions other influential leaders who were main ingredients of the famous incident that led to Parks being crowned ‘Mother of the Civil Rights Movement’. “People seem to think they know, but they really don’t know,” said Joyce. On October 24, 2005, the day that Rosa Parks passed away, Joyce witnessed an anchorman on the news giving inaccurate information about her life. “I knew at that moment that I had to do my part as an artist to make sure that information didn’t continue to be twisted,” she continued.
With the goal to educate through entertainment, Joyce gathered information that would allow her to share the details of Parks’ life accurately and honestly. She has completed over 70 performances in about 26 cities over the past four years. “Through my show and repeating the story over and over again, people are starting to get it. They’re starting to understand what she meant about being tired.”
Joyce is very excited about visiting Jacksonville for the first time. Backed by word-of-mouth promotion, A Rose Among Thorns was recommended to Executive Director/CEO of Stage Aurora, Darryl Reuben Hall by mutual actress friend, Margo Moorer. Joyce was finally able to free up time in her schedule to participate in the festival. “What he’s been doing over the past years in creating this wonderful Black Arts Festival, that’s something to be very excited about,” she proclaimed. Much like Hall, Joyce is adamant about giving back to the community and using the arts to preserve historical milestones. With A Rose Among Thorns, she has created a show that memorializes a very important incident in American history.
While traveling, Joyce has also had the pleasure of meeting some of Parks’ close relatives and friends and she is often amazed by who is in the audience. She recalled meeting Johnnie Carr, Parks’ childhood friend and a fellow leader in the Civil Rights Movement, during the show’s stop in Montgomery, Alabama, “This woman was 96 years old and we got to meet her and speak with her and she loved the show. The wonderful blessings that the Lord has bestowed upon myself and my crew with the show has just been immeasurable. Wonderful experiences like that, we get to have every place we go so I know we’re going to have a wonderful experience in Jacksonville. I’m just looking forward to it.”
Joyce hopes to someday perform A Rose Among Thorns on Broadway and possibly travel to other countries where outsiders can get another perspective of our history. For now, she is happy with bringing the production to churches, schools, and other special venues. An upcoming schedule of appearances is listed on both of her websites (www.ellajoyce.com and www.aroseamongthorns.com).
The Stage Aurora Jacksonville Black Arts Festival will also include Free Events: OCEANUS TRAINING CENTER Tae Kwan Do Exhibition and The Aurora Kids Play Zone. Special events include a presentation of RICHARD AND OSCAR: FILMMAKING IN BLACK AND WHITE penned by Darryl Reuben Hall. The Festival also features the Aurora Star Baby Contest, Top Chef Cooking Extravaganza, Anointed Gospel Talent Search, Humanities Scholars Bob Devin Jones, Dr. Robert Cassanello, and Dr. Susan Fernandez; and the Stage Aurora 100 Youth Voices Musical Theatre Program in Afro’s and Bellbottoms 70’s Concert.