Bitsy and Boots (Part 6!) Is Coming Soon


“Like the Tri-State’s own country-soaked version of Tyler Perry, Jonathan Joy is becoming quite known for his quirky reoccurring characters who are making a habit of popping up…and raising a ruckus.”

-Dave Lavender (Herald-Dispatch)

“It was a wonderful play!  The people said they had never laughed so much in their lives.”

-David Dumas (Director of the Lindale, TX production)

“We love it when somebody asks us in July what Bitsy and Boots will be doing next Valentine’s Day. We love the fact that your silliness has raised around $10,000 for Mission-feeding the hungry, funding work teams, helping folks near and far.  These plays are truly the answer to “church” theater projects and beyond.”

-Jane Morse (The original Bitsy)

Eight or nine years ago Jane and Jerry Morse asked me if I would be interested in writing something for their church dinner theatre.  Jane expressed that the play should probably not have any profanity or excessive drinking.  Up to that point, most of my plays had plenty of both, so this became a rather formidable challenge.  The first Bitsy and Boots play revolved around the title characters’ nephew Tommy, hesitantly bringing his fiancé home to meet the two oddball aunts that raised him.  Various complications resulted.  Audiences laughed and, before you knew it, there was a sequel…and then another…and, eventually, five plays total.  Now six.  Our title characters have ventured into politics, traveled to the Tropics, shopped on Black Friday, and hosted a wedding, all with funny and unexpected results.  What’s in store for Bitsy and Boots now?  You can find out soon when Bitsy and Boots on the Move hits the First United Methodist Stage in Huntington, WV, February 12, 13, and 14.  Make your reservations now before they sell out.

The Bitsy and Boots plays are a series of six full length, family friendly, romantic comedies, and real crowd pleasers with churches and community theatres in West Virginia, Texas, and Michigan.  The first five are available on Amazon and have gone on to top Amazon’s Comedy Plays and Christian Literature charts in the US, Canada, and Germany.

Check ’em out!*Version*=1&*entries*=0



The Joy of…blog endorses Jeb Bush, Bernie Sanders


I keep seeing newspapers making their endorsement for political candidates.  It’s always seemed odd to me that that’s a thing newspapers do.  Anyway, instead of lashing out against them for this, I thought I’d jump right into the battle royal with my two cents.

You have to consider the source.  In eighth I wrote an essay glowingly endorsing Bush Sr. for President.  That fourteen year old conservative would grow up to betray himself by turning into a big lib and working the Al Gore campaign in 2000.  I still drink coffee daily from my Gore/Lieberman mug.  Admittedly, I can be a bit wishy washy (I prefer open minded) when it comes to these things.  Still, I’m pretty sure this is exactly who Republicans and Democrats should be voting for starting next week.

8th grade civics papers aside, I never thought I’d find myself endorsing anyone with the last name Bush to be the Republican nominee for President, but this one is fairly easy.  He’s a middle of the road guy with executive experience managing a large state budget.  (Ideology aside, having had a job kind of like the job you’re applying for turned out to be a pretty important factor for me.)  He is also one of the few Republicans not running on the “America is a terrible place” platform.  I respect that.  Jeb seems pretty cool tempered, too…even when he’s calling Donald Trump a jerk over and over again.  He may be terrible at running for President (by today’s standards, anyway), but he’s a stellar candidate by comparison to his colleagues.

Bernie Sanders gets my endorsement to be the Democratic nominee for President.  This one wasn’t that difficult, either.  To use a pro wrestling analogy, Sanders is the ‘American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes of the campaign season, a tireless worker always looking out for the common man.  By contrast Hillary is to politics as John Cena is to wrestling…okay in the ring, but too often pushed on fans clamoring for something new.  Having Sanders as the nominee also puts the issue of income inequality at the forefront of the campaign.  That won’t happen otherwise, and the American people deserve a campaign where that issue is brought up every day.  Dude marched with Martin Luther King and is going to make Elizabeth Warren his VP (and eventually the first female POTUS), so big ups to him.

Happy voting, everyone.  God Bless America.

Enough about the two major parties.  I really want to explore third party candidates in 2016.  Look for my blog series titled Other People Running For President coming soon.  I promise to cover as many as possible and I’ll try to be fair and balanced (man, I hope that phrase isn’t taken.)  Stay tuned.

10 Reasons to Audition for ACTC’s 3rd Annual New Play Festival

new play fest 1

Auditions for ACTC’s third annual New Play Festival will be held Monday, February 1 at 2pm and 7pm and Tuesday, February 2 at 7pm.  No experience is needed.  We’re looking for folks high school ages and up that want to perform onstage or work behind the scenes.  Need a reason to join us?  Here are ten of ’em.

10.  The fest features eleven new plays, comedies and dramas, written by eleven talented ACTC students.

9.  You’ll get to meet loads of new people.

8.  Being on stage helps boost confidence, which can lead to positive effects in all walks of life.

7.  The shows are well written and engaging.  A couple of last year’s plays even moved on to performance at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville.

6.  Because the plays are short (roughly 3-15 minutes each) the rehearsal schedule is very flexible.  You won’t be committed to a 4 or 5 night a week schedule like you would for a full length play.  Many shows only work once or twice a week until production week arrives.

5.  Working behind the scenes can help develop organizational and leadership skills.

4.  I hear the festival coordinator is a pretty cool dude.

3.  It’s fun!

2.  What a fantastic way to express your creative, imaginative side.

1. You’re needed.  Theatre is a collaborative art, which means it takes a lot of people working together to pull it off.  Over the past two years 50 different theatre artists (some experienced, others making their stage debut) have worked together to bring two dozen new plays to life.  The fest is a unique local event that has entertained many Tri-Staters and received national attention in The Dramatist magazine.  And none of it would be possible without you.  Come join us!

Again, auditions are February 1 and 2.  No experience is necessary.  You don’t need to prepare anything.  Just show up.

Performance dates for the fest are April 1, 2, and 3.  E-mail for more info.

25 Super Cool Things About Huntington, West ‘By God’ Virginia

best of 2015 25

Okay, here’s my #ABC50 and/or #ABCHuntington contribution.  Good luck, H-town!

25 Super Cool Things About My Hometown

-Ritter Park has been ranked by Child Magazine as one of the ten nicest parks in the country.

-The city’s downtown arena, the Big Sandy Superstore Arena is, according to Venues Today, the , “11th top entertainment venue worldwide among venues with seating capacities between 5,001 and …10,000.”  That same venue was also recently nominated for an Academy of Country Music Award for Venue of the Year (Medium capacity) for the second year in a row.

-Huntington offers a ton of free activities for kids, most notably the Huntington Museum of Art’s Saturday KidsArt program, which offers kids Pre-K through 5th grade free art classes every Saturday afternoon.

-Our area’s focus on fitness rivals many areas its size.  From the PATH to Critical Mass to the Marshall marathon to the high number of 5K races (including the annual WV 5K Championship), and a YMCA that has basically tripled in size over the past two decades, Huntingtonians should be proud of the improvement made in this category.

-From musical theatre to Pulitzer Prize winning work to the best in children’s theatre, Huntington boasts a wide variety of stage works with something for everyone.  It is rare for a weekend to go by without some play being brought to life for Tri-State audiences.

-How many communities can boast an amusement park among the many things to do?  Not many.  Huntington can.  Camden Park!

-Be it Greek Fest or a Marshall football game day or a Halloween block party or a Hot Dog Fest, Huntingtonians are never at a loss for coming up with an excuse to party with their neighbors.  Thousands turn out for these events and many, many more.

-Speaking of food, and we know good food, did you know that Cam’s Ham sandwich was ranked one of the Top 50 sandwiches in the USA, according to the Food Network’s “50 States, 50 Sandwiches”?

-While too many communities our size were tearing down their Keith Albee or Jeslyn theatres/performing arts centers, ours was focused on restoring them and ensuring the quality arts programming and educational outreach that comes from both.

-While many communities our size have let their downtowns die, ours has held on better than most with Pullman Square and other small businesses.

-A recent Movoto survey of 34 West Virginia cities ranked Huntington the ninth best place to live in the state.  Two of the positives this piece pointed out was that our town has both the lowest cost of living and lowest student to teacher ratio of any other city in their top 10.  (I would argue that either one of these most vital factors should bump us up to the top spot.)

-Becker’s Hospital Review recently ranked Cabell Huntington Hospital, one of the area’s largest employers, as one of the Top 150 Great Places to Work in Healthcare in all of the United States.

-Cooking Light named The Wild Ramp as one of the Top 50 (out of over 8,000!) farmers’ markets in the country.

-Heritage Farm, a 25,000 square foot collection of Appalachian history, recently became West Virginia’s first Smithsonian Institution Affiliate.

-Marshall University has racked up a number of impressive accomplishments, including, but not limited to an award winning radio station, a top notch fine arts program, one of the best H.E.L.P. programs around, and a Forensic Science Graduate Program recently ranked #1 in the nation.

-Central City is not only on the National Register of Historic Places, but it’s also one of the most unique shopping outlets you’ll find.

-Huntington Prep has been ranked among the Top 10 basketball programs in the country.  Current NBA player Andrew Wiggins, the top high school basketball player in the country in 2013, leads an impressive list of Express players.

-Huntington High School’s new Wellness Academy recently received national recognition in District Administration magazine.

-Huntington was named as one of 50 quarterfinalists (out of 347 communities evaluated) in the 2015 American’s Best Communities competition.

-Nationally renowned podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me and hit web series Things I Bought at Sheetz both have roots in Huntington.

-Calliope magazine’s 2013 Clown of the Year, Tom E. Boy, is a Huntington resident.

-According to the 2010 Census, Huntington’s population is on the rise for the first time in six decades.

-After two decades of sitting empty, Marshall University has filled the old downtown Stone and Thomas building with a state of the art visual arts center.

-According to Nielsen, in 2011 the Huntington-Charleston, WV area was the #1 market in the country for percentage of country music album sales…just four spots ahead of Nashville, TN.

-West end elementary school, Central City, hosts an awesome neighborhood Halloween parade every year that really brings the community together.

I could add more, but I’m tired and 25 seems like a good, solid number.  We’re far from perfect.  Of course, we have our problems.  We’ve got a lot to be proud of, too.  That’s what this is about.





The Force Awakens Ashland

star wars

This article originally appeared in the January 5, 2016 edition of The Greater Ashland Beacon weekly newspaper. 

Star Wars has always had a special place in my heart.  I was a wee one, just three years old when the original hit theatres.  Fascination with Luke, Han, and Darth Vader dominated my childhood.  My mother even took me out of school early to see Return of the Jedi on its opening day in 1983.

So, it was with much anticipation and excitement that I ventured out to see Star Wars:  The Force Awakens recently along with tens of millions of others, young and old, looking to feel either the nostalgia of days gone by or the awakening of something new.  What we got, of course, was both.  A fine film, one of the best of the year according to many critics, that perfectly balanced the introduction of new characters and a new storyline with some familiar faces.

The new Star Wars film has broken just about every box office record imaginable and will soon hold the title of the highest grossing film in history.  Even if you adjust the box office charts for inflation, it should give E.T. and The Sound of Music (#4 and #3 all time, respectively) a run for their money, though it will probably fall short the amount of tickets sold by the all time box office blockbuster, Gone With the Wind or the number 2 all time, the original Star Wars.

What we’re seeing with this film only happens once or twice in a generation, and the economic benefits are being felt all over the world.  Tri-State theaters are enjoying packed houses, as well.  The film is playing at the Kyova 10 Theatre and at Movies 10 in downtown Ashland.  No doubt both will be filled with wee ones forging new memories and older folks like me who, for a time, will be transported back to a simpler time.

Star Wars:  The Force Awakens earns my highest recommendation.  And I’m not one that sees movies in the theatre that often.  This one is more than worth the trip to one of our wonderful local theatres.

A Blast From The 2010 Past

Here’s a best of list and a blast from the past all in one.  I came across this online today, a piece I wrote for Chuck Minsker’s theatre blog five years ago.  Brought back some fine memories:


Jon Joy’s “Best of 2010” List!

My pal Jonathan Joy is next to weigh in on our end-of-the-year tradition, as he sends along his “Best of 2010” list.

He writes:

I’m not going to break down the “best of” the way I did last year, because I did not see as many shows as usual. In 2009, I was able to take in 13 different plays, compared to only a handful in 2010. Having a newborn son meant we were much more likely to stay home or enjoy outdoor activites such as the pool or a variety of fairs and festivals. Fortunately, I was able to be involved in a bunch of shows and I have highlighted my best theatre experiences/memories/thoughts/people of the year here.

10) Dr. David Wohl: After a quarter century of guiding theatre artists at West Virginia State, Charleston Stage Company and Festiv-all, Dr. Wohl retired his WVSU position and moved south. Like many in the area, he helped open many doors of opportunity for me. The theatre community will miss him.

9) Amy Browning: She’s a terrific director and I could not have asked for a better assistant director for my First Stage show The First Day of Summer. My son was born midway through the rehearsal process and I had to miss a few rehearsals. Amy steered the ship in my absence and helped me to craft a terrific show. Kudos to Jeanette Bills for an awesome producing job, as well.

8) Clown Jubilee: Levi Tobin Joy made his unofficial stage debut at this event at Charleston’s Labelle Theatre in May. Clown Jubilee was organized by Tom King and featured an interactive approach to performing and all things clowning related. We had a great time.

7) David Johnston: The NYC based playwright visited MU’s fourth annual New Works Festival in June. His play Coney was terrific and this festival may just be my favorite theatre event in Huntington.

6) The River Play: My MCTC Intro to Theatre students and I took a stab at the annual Festiv-all playwriting contest this year. The result was a funny 10-minute play about young love, pirates and redemption. We didn’t win, but I was proud of their creative and entertaining ideas.

5) Theatre Camp! For the ninth straight summer, I conducted theatre camps at the Huntington Museum of Art. They have a great summer program that includes exposure to all of the arts. I had a blast with the theatre kids as they wrote their own scripts and performed them for friends, family. Jessica Fox also invited me back for a third straight year of camp at the Jeslyn.

4) Dubai: My plays were performed in North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Iowa and (of course) West Virginia this year. I was most excited, however, when a theatre from Dubai contacted me requesting rights for my 2002 political comedy American Standard. The result was my first ever overseas production.

3) WV Writers: T.W. McNemar invited me to take part in the WV Writers annual conference in Ripley. I taught three playwriting workshops in less than 24 hours and met some great fellow WV writers. There is a lot of talent in this state.

2) James (and Levi) and the Giant Peach: I had a terrific cast, crew and production team for this awesome First Stage production. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun leading a young group through the rehearsal process. The result was a fun and imaginative play. It was also Levi’s first full production. He was in attendance twice and he was a very good audience member – he didn’t make a sound at either performance.

1) Bitsy and Boots and Friends: The good folks with the First United Methodist Church (Jane and Jerry Morse) were kind enough to stage my third helping of Bitsy and Boots fun for their annual dinner theatre. The crowds were terrific and seemed to enjoy it. I’m writing a fourth Bitsy and Boots play, though it may be a while before it hits the stage.

Of course, there are others. ACTC’s festive opening night atmosphere for A Christmas Carol, Marshall University Theatre’s extended use of the black box for student productions and this theatre blog should all make the list. I’m sure I’ll remember others after I finish writing this. I’m just glad I live in an area with such an active and supportive theatre base. Keep up the awesome work, everybody!

Six Years at ACTC

This week I celebrate not only the beginning of another great semester, but also six years of work at Ashland Community and Technical College. I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years, well over twenty. The shortest was a construction job in Norfolk, VA that I worked for about ten hours, while the longest was a part-time teaching job as theatre educator at the Huntington Museum of Art that lasted ten years. Thankful for all (well most) of them and really appreciative of all of the opportunities that I’ve had at ACTC these past six years.