Tom Joyner joyful to be part of the EMU theater scene

By Pam Perez, WeatherVane student newspaper

EMU's new drama professor Tom Joyner
EMU’s new drama professor Tom Joyner

His office may still be piled with boxes waiting to be unpacked, and his desk might be cluttered with papers waiting to be filed, but EMU’s new drama professor Thomas Joyner feels right at home just the same. (Learn more about EMU’s theater program…)

“Everyone has been very welcoming. I’ve had a great experience so far. The valley is a beautiful place that my family and I enjoy,” Joyner says.

Hailing from the University of Central Florida, Joyner was first placed on a small list for applicants last year.

“My first full-time teaching job was last year in Florida. I had applied to several schools, including EMU, but they had already hired someone, so I accepted UCF’s offer to work for them for a year,” Joyner says.

When the year ended and the interim drama professor left, EMU was on the lookout again. Sticking to the short list of applicants from the year before, they made some calls.

“When they called to see if I would come for an interview, I said sure,” says Joyner. “I had only signed a one-year contract with UCF. UCF was the fifth-biggest school in the state and EMU was just homey [in comparison]. The school’s mission resonates with me. EMU was the only school I interviewed with and I got the job. I really felt it was a guided experience and that the whole process was meant to be because it was the only school I interviewed with.”

Joyner’s enjoyment of drama began when he was in middle school. From there he went through high school and college spending all his spare time on the stage. Once Joyner reached college, he felt it was impractical to major in theatre. Still, he spent as much time as possible acting. Graduating from college as a Philosophy and Religion major, he felt his next step was a bit uncertain, but that grad school was in the program.

“I had a wide variety of interests that I wanted to study, but when I told the academic advisor I had five ideas she quickly told me to pick just one. And theatre was the one that just…came out. It was my passion.”

He helped a lot with a community theater in downtown Orlando and even assisted women at a local country club to develop their skills. He realized acting, for some, was a fun time and that for others it was a passion.

“Many people come for fun and to put on a show. That’s good but why does it appeal? Why is it important? I mean, why have they kept it around for 2,500 years? They are not to entertain but to give the world a better place; see how others are in the world.”

Joyner had the opportunity of jumping right in and directing EMU’s first production, “Stones in His Pockets.” He had a clear sense of where the play should go and what he wanted out of it.

“I wanted to show what the play means to the audience. I stay open to the ideas of the actors and their input so we can shape the student’s input. The actors usually bring themselves to the part,” Joyner says.

Joyner feels college is the time to experiment with theatre, not just for show but to try something new; College is a time to find a variety of plays, ranging from contemporary to classics. He wants to try new things and find a variety of styles.

“When I pick a play, I choose something that hits my brain and makes me think, but also hits my heart and makes me feel,” Joyner says.

Joyner came here with a clear sense of how he wants things to turn out. Like any director, he has to let the actors take a hold of their roles and make the play. He was excited to make the transition from Florida to Virginia, and more importantly to EMU. He wants to bring a final bow to the drama department so that at the end of the day, when the curtains are closing, the drama department can feel complete.

Joyner concludes, “I hope to bring a sense of stability finally. I hope I can bring a foundation to expand on; that we can be known. It’s not about the numbers but about the awareness. Theater is about justice and peace and communicating that to others.”