As 2024 gets off to a start, I’m starting a new periodic series in 2024. Family Ties will feature a performer following in their parents’ footsteps – second-generation performers taking to the stage.
We kick it off this week with Dalton Jones, the 15-year-old son of Maree Jones and Russell Jones. Both Maree, a theater graduate of Samford University and now the director of social media strategy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Russell, a weekend anchor for Fox 6 News, have extensive theater experience. In fact, they met doing Shakespeare in Homewood Park.
Dalton, a Chelsea High School student, is doing some acting of his own, most recently starring as Buddy in his school’s production of “Elf.”
What inspired you to pursue acting?
Honestly, it was seeing what a great environment theater is through my parents and their theater friends. Many times, I would go out to dinner with them and their friends, and they would tell all these stories about various shows. They also make a lot of references to shows and quote from them randomly throughout the day, and I’ve come to memorize most of them.
Is it something that has come naturally to you, or did you feel comfortable on stage right away?
I like to think that acting felt pretty comfortable with me from the get-go because of several different factors. I’ve had plenty of subconscious practice because I was always a kid who used his toys to pretend and act like people I would see on TV, and I always took it very seriously. I also have goofy parents who always do impressions at home, so I definitely grew up in an ideal environment for goofy acting.
How do you balance your schoolwork with rehearsal and performance demands?
This has been a particular challenge for me in my most recent show, but I found that the best way to handle schoolwork and theater is with a favorite acronym of mine, G.A.P., which stands for Gather, Arrange and Prioritize. The first thing I like to do is gather all my work for school and/or theater. Second, I arrange all of my work into a schedule so that I can plan out when I can do said work. And third, no planning is useful without prioritization. This is the most important step, and it can be a confusing one, because it could mean prioritizing work or, when doing too much work, prioritizing yourself.
Have you faced any stage fright or nervousness, and, if so, how do you manage that?
Oh, absolutely, and I can honestly say that because I have learned that stage fright is one of the most common denominators of all forms of entertainment, and I’ve received a lot of help in that area from both my parents and peers. As my dad has told me many times, I always remember to “just leave it on the stage.” I take this as, if you’re going to be on that stage, you might as well give it your best. When I remember this and do some of the classic “red leather, yellow leather” warm-ups, it’s game-on once I get on that stage.
What’s your favorite aspect of performing in front of a live audience?
Most likely, the main reason I do any acting is because I love making people laugh, which is also why I’ve loved playing comedic characters. The feeling you get when receiving applause, laughter and/or cheers is an incredible sense of validation, enough to convince anyone to try acting.
How do you see your involvement in theater impacting your future personally and professionally?
I see myself acting through high school and maybe even college. I plan to have a minor in theater, and my dream is to become a professional television and movie actor one day. Regardless of my profession, however, I plan to continue performing throughout my life. The experience of the stage and the community that comes with it is too good of a life to miss.
Are there any professional actors or actresses who inspire you?
Like any teenage boy you might know, there’s definitely a list of actors and actresses I’ve thought were “cool” or “awesome,” but if I were to narrow it down to three, it would be people like Ryan Reynolds, Jim Carrey and Sylvester Stallone. I would classify these three on a spectrum between cool and comedic, and I am inspired by them on their different degrees on that spectrum respectively. I like Stallone’s self-made success and “tough guy” exterior. I like Reynolds’ ability to combine action with comedy, which I always found impressive. Finally, on the comedic side, we have the master of comedy himself, Jim Carrey. His style of semi-slapstick humor is heavily influential on my style of comedy, and I tinker with a lot of stuff from his material and use it in some of my more comedic roles, such as Buddy in “Elf: The Musical.”
What advice would you give to other students who are interested in acting but haven’t taken the leap, yet?
I would say that, while it is a leap, never be afraid to try something new. It’s really not as bad as you would think, and if you give it your all, it can be a lot of fun! I’ll say to the people wanting to act: always be humble, but never hold back. More often than not, you’ll find many people who will support you, and it might be your new passion. Regardless of whether you want to try acting, singing, football or anything else, would you rather stay “safe,” or would you rather be able to look back 30 years later and say confidently that it was worth it?
Can you tell me about your experience in “Elf”? That wasn’t your first show, was it?
“Elf” was a fantastic experience that taught me many good lessons (namely, the importance of tea and honey to a singer’s throat). I did one or two shows beforehand, such as “Peter and the Starcatcher,” but this was my first true musical, so I’ll admit that I was pushed to my limits. However, that was made up for by the great community I was surrounded by. The acting and technical directors of the show, Katie Alder and Christi Cheek, were some of the nicest people I had ever worked with, and I made many new best friends along the way, regardless of how cheesy that sounds. It also reminded me of how great it is to be on the stage in front of an audience; there’s nothing like it!
Looking ahead, are there any dream roles or types of productions you hope to be a part of in the future?
When it comes to theater, there are a few roles I would love to try one day. These include Willy Wonka in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” or perhaps Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast.” If I ever become an actor, my goal is to either work on or host “Saturday Night Live.”
Do you hope to be on stage with your parents?
Yes! I would absolutely love to star in a production with my parents. I feel like our energies would really go together well on stage. My Dad and I recently talked about doing a show together later in the year, so who knows what’ll happen!
Anything else you’d like to say about your acting or your parents’ influence on it?
Acting is certainly something I plan on doing in the future. I’ve found that it has mental and physical benefits, keeping my mind and body healthy. It also led me to find many friends I would consider part of a second “family.” With my parents’ encouragement and a potential career, who knows what the future holds?