Article: Wayne State’s Erman Jones wears his heart on his sleeve in the autobiographical ‘Hands’

Special to The Oakland Press

The original article may be found here.

Art is usually created from the experiences of its creator. The conception of art not only takes artistic ability but also the courage and capability to be vulnerable. Erman Jones is one such artist and thespian who has used these to create his autobiographical piece “Hands” making its world premiere at Wayne State University.

“Hands,” a one-man show, explores the different and complex relationships of Jones’ large Idaho-bred Mormon family.

The complexities of his family include the relationship between Jones and his father, his mother’s five marriages and his nine brothers and sisters.

Jones says all of his experiences and relationships have molded him into the person he is today. He found out just how much this was the case while writing the piece in collaboration with WSU Theatre faculty member Mary Elizabeth Anderson.

“I was surprised how vulnerable I am and how vulnerable a lot of those experiences made me. I realized I am who I am because of those experiences,” he says.

“Hands” grew from Jones’ original idea to write a one-man show based on his relationship with his father and relating and comparing it to other people’s relationships with their fathers.  The show was originally titled “Finding Our Fathers.” Jones had even started a website where people could share their own experiences with their fathers in an effort to grow his storyline. But he experienced what he calls an “evolution” in the process.

“It became a scary thing because it became all about my father and my brother and I thought to myself, ‘Is this something people will even care about?’ ” he says.

The production is unusual in that it originated from one idea of Jones’ and has grown into the show premiering this Sunday. Unlike many shows that Jones has performed at The Hillberry Theatre Company at WSU or any other production shown there, “Hands” is not your typical theatrical experience. It was not simply a script and lines to be learned.

“We recorded all of my rehearsals on a video camera and transcribed everything word for word and came up with 50 pages of text,” Jones says.

Another special quality of “Hands” is that the audience will be able to give feedback to the author/actor as Jones facilitates a post-show discussion with audience members to help continue the growth and development of the show.

He will be relocating to Berlin in August and hopes to show his work in several European theaters and festivals. He also wants to eventually tour his show in the United States.

Touring and developing the show are top priorities for Jones. But his main goal for the show is for everyone who sees the play to see something about themselves.

“No matter who we are and where we grow up, we all are human and we all have hurt and joy,” he says. “I hope people recognize the value of embracing their family for who they are.”

Art critic John Ruskin once said, “Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together.”

Jones seems to embody all of these in his “Hands.”

If you go

“Hands” will be presented Sunday and Monday, May 1 and 2. Performances are at 7 p.m. Jones will perform “Hands” in the Maggie Allesee Studio Theatre  on the third floor of Old Main on Wayne State’s Campus in the northwest corner of the building; access to Old Main will be available via the Hancock Street entrance at 480 W. Hancock St., Ste. 3317, Detroit. Admission is free for everyone. Call 313-377-3820.

Samantha White can be reached at

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