Tarik Jones isn’t one to wait for opportunity.
The 22-year-old theater and graphic design graduate—who received a 2-year fellowship from composer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s foundation for his exceptional passion in the performing arts—likes to create his own opportunities.
“I’m not really a big fan of doing nothing,” laughed Jones. Before coming to Northeastern, the New Jersey native had already created mini-skits with his sister as a child, pioneered his own YouTube show in high school, and even battled back from a debilitating brain aneurysm.
So when Jones was talking to a fellow student about creating much-needed space on Northeastern’s Boston campus to encourage people of color to get involved with theater, he acted quickly.
“Actually one day I was just like, ‘Hey, I’m going to make this,’” said Jones of the New Renaissance Theatre Company, an on-campus theater club he co-created in January, 2019 to ensure that students like himself can experience all aspects of the performing arts. The theater’s mission is to produce plays with a focus on representing students of color.
“A lot of people of color aren’t really exposed to theater,” said Jones.
Now, Jones, who graduated in December, is poised to pursue a career in theater with a boost from the Miranda Family Fund, created by the “Hamilton” composer and star. The fund grants Jones a scholarship to the National Theater Institute, a rigorous six-semester program at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center designed to prepare students for work in the theater industry. According to the Miranda Family Fund’s website, the fellowships are granted to promising artists of color “exhibiting passion, drive and unique points of view in various artistic mediums.”
Before college, Jones hadn’t really considered a career in the performing arts, especially after much of his life was put on hold after he suffered a hemorrhagic stroke at age 11.
“I had to relearn everything. How to walk. How to talk,” said Jones.
He initially was working towards a computer science major at Northeastern, but a freshman acting class he took on a whim changed his mind. He landed a role in the 2017-2018 on-campus production of “Hair,” and immediately felt at home.
“After I did ‘Hair’ I was like, ‘This is what I want to do,’” said Jones. “Being a part of that community felt like, “This is who I am.’”
Since starting the New Renaissance Theatre Company, Jones has seen several students pursue a performing arts degree after getting involved in the company.
“It’s great to see the impact it’s having,” he said. “We didn’t realize how much people wanted something like this on campus. Some people who worked with us ended up switching their major to theater or deciding to minor in theater.”
Northeastern Theatre Department Chair Antonio Ocampo-Guzman said Jones’ efforts are a perfect result of Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight to ensure equal rights and access for Black Americans. King spoke in 1967 of the “fierce urgency of now,” and called on Americans to “move past indecision to action.”
“The future is people like Tarik,” said Ocampo-Guzman. “The conversations we’ve had over the years have helped me be much more intentional about what we’re doing in the department and how we can be more inclusive.”
Ocampo-Guzman describes Jones as a gentle soul whose laid-back attitude belies his dedication.
“The experience he’s had as a student of color seeking to open up a new space for students of color hasn’t always been easy, but he’s been very fierce about it,” said Ocampo-Guzman.
Jones said he wants to continue working in theater. After being awarded the Miranda Family Fellowship, he even got the chance to virtually meet Miranda.
“He’s super cool,” said Jones, who said the fellowship will teach him more about the business aspects of the entertainment industry as well as offer acting guidance. Of course, Jones isn’t stopping there.
“I’ve been working on writing music and producing my own stuff,” he said. “I pretty much like to constantly work.”
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