Retired professor-turned-playwright's play to show on Sunday

Thursday, September 4, 2008 | 5:48 p.m. CDT; updated 6:40 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 4, 2008

COLUMBIA - A Columbia resident since 1987, B.C. Jones has gone from retired college professor to playwright over the past three years.

"I enjoy it," Jones said. "I found I had some ability."

If you go

WHAT: "Dr. Mary - Dang Contrary," a play about the historical feminist reformer Mary Edwards Walker. A discussion and poetry reading will follow.

WHEN: 2 p.m., Sunday

WHERE: Unitarian Universalist Church, 2615 Shepard Blvd.

COST: Free; Donations are accepted, and door prizes will be given.

His latest play, "Dr. Mary - Dang Contrary," debuted at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Columbia on Aug. 23.

"The applause was remarkable," Jones acknowledged.

The one-person play centers on the life of Mary Edwards Walker, the first and only female winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the first female Army surgeon who served during the Civil War.

Jones said much of his knowledge for writing "Dr. Mary" came from research and studying done during his formal schooling long ago.

"I just happened to see something about her when I went through a museum with a Civil War exhibit," Jones said. "I wanted to learn more about her."

Educated at Swarthmore College, Emory University and the University of Florida, Jones later taught in areas of history and social science. He moved to Missouri in 1978 to teach at Central Methodist University, keeping his home in Florida for winter vacations. It wasn't until three years ago, when Jones decided to sell his Florida home, that he stumbled upon his love for writing plays.

Jones held a sale out of the home and a number of people who came were "so weird," he said, that he decided to write a play about moving sales. "There is a certain culture of the people who go to yard sales," he said.

Jones went on to write other plays performed in Columbia such as "Senseless and Sensitivity," "Rolled" and "A Glass Too Many."

Jones gives much of the credit for the success of "Dr. Mary" to Columbia actress Beth Yates, an Ashland teacher who plays Mary Walker.

"She is so good," Jones said.

Yates also played a role in "Rolled."

"(B.C.) is very easy going, always open to suggestions, very easy to work worth," Yates said.

He discovered Yates on visits to Bob Evans Restaurant, where she is a server on weekends. It was during those meals with his wife that Jones learned Yates acted.

In addition to teaching full time at Southern Boone Middle School, Yates also runs triathlons and was formerly involved in performance poetry. Her best advice to her drama students: "If you feel ridiculous on stage, you're probably doing something right - you can't feel cool."

Yates said portraying Walker, a woman who was "so strong and ahead of her time," is an honor. "Her tenacity is very much like myself," Yates said. "She didn't always do what is popular but did what was right."

Walker's life has been an inspiration to Jones, too. Now in his mid-70s, he said he admires Walker for her determination.

"I keep on (writing) because people seem to like these plays."


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