The Washington Post

Artist Explained: Ella Joyce talks being “A Rose Among Thorns”

Film and television actress Ella Joyce has spent the past four years emulating Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks in her one-woman touring stage play “ A Rose Among Thorns ,” where Ms. Joyce, dressed as Rosa Parks, discusses Parks’ role within the Montgomery Bus Boycott, aiming to explore her life as a human being, and not just as an activist. Joyce has brought her plays to venues all over the country, and will perform at The Essential Theatre in Washington September 21 - 25. Here, in an excerpted interview, the unassuming actress, 57, shares what her preparation process entailed and how she was inspired by both President Obama and the play’s namesake.

Ella Joyce as Rosa Parks in her one-woman stage play "A Rose Among Thorns" (photo by Dan Martin)

“When I first started doing the play – I have quotes in the play and there were some out of time quotes from some famous people that I had extracted from Ebony Magazine. And…now you’re talking 2005, 2006, when I was writing the play. But I just went with my gut feeling and I grabbed what reached out at me, and there were quotes from an total unknown senator – from Chicago, that I figured had to be black, with a name like Barack Obama. And so that was one of the quotes that went into the play, and as the time has gone on and this unknown man announced that he was running for president, and then - not to say the thrill of him becoming president - I have been able to relive the audience’s glee and anticipation and the energy, the wonderful energy as they began to key into this man’s name.”

“…There’s so much appreciation that has happened over the years that that prayer has begun to change because during the past you know four or five years - six years that I’ve been immersed into my play from writing it and learning it and producing it - you know, presenting it, and actually getting out there – this unknown man became – he announced that he was going to be president, he ran while I was doing the show – and he became president.”

“But it’s been a wonderful experience because through this play I’ve been able to experience that. And so I sort of invite Rosa Parks’ spirit to light with us from the beginning as we prepare to put our show on to the very end. And it has just been a very wonderful experience. I feel like I commune even more with the people through the play.”

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