(NSU NEWSROOM-May 14, 2015)
The first time Juspin Jones played New York City, he “knocked them dead.” Jones, a theatre performance major who graduated on Saturday, May 9, from Norfolk State, has been courted by several universities for graduate school to the tune of more than $750,000.
At the urging of NSU Theatre Director Anthony Stockard, Jones, who only had one major acting role, found himself in New York among hundreds of actors all vying for a chance to impress a host of colleges and universities for graduate school opportunities.
Following his audition, Jones received offers from the University of Tennessee, University of Florida, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Iowa, University of Georgia, Regent University and Temple University, which collectively offered him more than $750,000 in scholarships and stipends.
“Seeing all of the schools and opportunities it gave me was more than overwhelming,” said Jones about his experience. After considering all proposals, Jones has decided to attend Temple University.
“I don’t want to go somewhere where I’m not pushed beyond my limits to improve myself,” he said. “I will not have that problem at Temple.”
According to Stockard, the University/Resident Theatre Association’s (URTA) National Unified Auditions and Interviews is the premiere theatre and drama graduate placement audition, with events in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.
“I believe that part of preparing students for bright futures is introducing them to post-undergraduate opportunities,” Stockard said.
What’s remarkable is that Jones had not planned to go to graduate school and that after leaving high school, theatre was not his first choice. When Jones graduated from Lake Wales Senior High in Lake Wales, Florida, he had scholarships for football and track and field. After a short stint at Florida A & M University, he went into the Navy and served five years before entering NSU.
“My plan was to get my associate degree from Tidewater Community College, transfer to Norfolk State, get my undergraduate degree in theatre performance, get with an agency and go from there,” said Jones.
He had been a part of the NSU Players under the late Dr. Clarence Murray Jr. and when Stockard came to NSU in fall 2014, Jones decided to stay involved.
“He came to my office the week I arrived at NSU and expressed his desire to have an opportunity to learn and grow before he graduated,” Stockard said. “At the time of his request, he had minimal experience and skill set and graduation was on the horizon.”
The theatre director decided to cast Jones as Walter Lee Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Because of his performance in that role, and that of his cast mates, NSU received its first-ever bid to the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival last February.
Stockard said Jones made the commitment to develop.
“I have students and mentees that have attended top graduate theatre programs and accumulated multiple offers, but never that many schools or that much money,” he said of Jones’ accomplishment.
For Jones, it has been an amazing year. “He helped me realize my dream from the first day he pushed me not to settle,” he said referring to Stockard.
“And when everything he helped me with came true, I realized that he would be part of not only my life in NSU Theatre Company, but throughout my career.”