Brian Burke Jones would like you to know that contrary to what you may find on Google, he is very much alive. While he likes the Rolling Stones, he's "not the dead one," Brian Jones. Nor is he the current owner of the Calgary Flames, Brian Burke. Our man Brian Burke Jones is a fresh, young playwright eager to return to the Holy City and debut his latest work Accepting Applications for a Muse at What If? Production's Playwrights Festival.
Last year, Jones won the new works competition at the festival and is excited to see his play come to fruition. That's a pretty good perch for a 27-year-old newcomer, and he's positively buoyant in his anticipation of alighting here.
A Raleigh, N.C. resident, Jones notes that the inspiration for Muse came from a unlikely source. "[The title] came from a hashtag actually, which sounds really corny every time I say it out loud. But I was sitting in front of my computer looking at a blank document and wondering if I had anything of value to try and write about. I took a picture of my blank screen posted it to Instagram and hashtagged it with #AcceptingApplicationsforaMuse. This story started to come together from there," Jones says. "I've had a lot of fun with it. I'm very excited to see what these characters look like outside of my head and on a stage."
Muse concerns itself with a young writer who is working on the Great American Novel and comes down with a very bad case of writer's block. In a last-ditch effort to get his creative juices jamba-ing, he sets out to find his own real-life muse in a series of progressively less likely places (think places to which one runs errands or goes grudgingly) and grapples with the nature of the artistic process in the modern world.
"This is the first time that I have ever had an idea spring from something social media-related, but it seems like it's worth it to continue to explore those avenues," Jones says. "We have so much exposure to so many interesting people now without ever leaving our homes. There is a lot of benefit to exploring humanity that way, but it is a double-edged sword."
Though he's made an effort not to put technology front and center in Muse, Jones is no stranger to creative frustration. Originally an actor trained at Winthrop University, he turned to playwriting as a creative outlet when the pressures of paying the bills inhibited his ability to both attend rehearsals and keep a roof over his head, choosing to stay closer to home rather than make the "actor move" to New York City.
"I started doing more playwriting because it's flexible with my schedule, and there's not really anyone depending on my progress," he says.
As for the debut of Muse, Jones says he can't imagine a better location for a world premiere than Charleston.
"Charlestonians seem to take a lot of pride in the culture they intake," he says. "It makes everyone more inclined to create it. It's a really good ecosystem for arts. Everyone that lives in Charleston feasts on the arts. Whatever it is that you are doing, the Charleston audience will find you."
He adds, "When you are in the process of creating something, it's very invigorating to be able to put your trust in the fact that the audience will be there."
Third Annual Playwrights Festival: Accepting Applications for a Muse. July 11, 12, 17-19 at 7:30 p.m., July 13 at 6 p.m. $15/students, $20/general.
Staged reading of 2014 Playwrights Festival finalist. Sat. July 12 at 4:30 p.m. Free. Threshold Theatre. 84½ Society St. whatifproductions.org