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Jon Christie bent down to shake my hand, but his grip was gentle. Tuffs of charcoal curls were visible above the valley of his turquoise v-neck and his boyish blue eyes were set in an ageless face, marked only by the thick stubble across his jaw line. At 23, Christie strives to break into Dallas Theater with the kind of youthful eagerness ignited by one’s first novel venture. He is the resident writer and co-founder of Triple J Productions, a Dallas theater company started last year by Christie, Josh Jacobs, and Joe Nagel. Christie may seemed wide-eyed while he talks about hopes for the future, but a measured maturity sits in the undertones of his voice. He says the negative reviews will far out number the encore performances on his way to “making it.”
Christie grew up between two brothers, and all three were homeschooled from kindergarten to high school. He found that he was atypical even amongst his siblings. He was outspoken and loved to socialize, while his brothers were more introverted. After graduating high school at home, Christie decided to enroll at Collin College in Plano. While attending classes he found a group of people that also chose to live out loud and catered to what he admits was social awkwardness.
“I wasn’t like the popular kid growing up because I was kind of awkward and weird,” he said, smiling. “But everyone in theater was kind of awkward and weird so I fit right in. I was like, ‘Yes! My people! I can be big and dramatic in real life and you’ll join me!’” Christie thrusts both fists into the air.
Christie was thriving both socially and on stage. But it wasn’t until he was cast in his first roll, as a cowboy with seven lines at the end of the play, that the bug bit him.
“I was really looking just to test out when I first started, but it was cool that they saw something in me worth putting on stage. It was very, very encouraging.”
After initial encouragement came cold, hard rejection. After prepping for a rehearsal for an entire year, he wasn’t cast for a role he wanted badly. That’s when he decided in order to gain the necessary stage experience, he would have to produce his own work.
“I thought, you know, it’s not fair that I have to play the lottery with every audition,” he said. “There’s gotta be something else I can do to feed my creativity.”
Christie began writing and his first produced show, Dream, was the only student work to feature an encore at Collin College. Christie believed he had tapped into something. He brought on Josh Jacobs and Joe Nagel, to aid with the technical aspects, and together they began to produce their own shows. After Dream’s production at the campus, they put on Angels Inc. at Christie’s church. They later joined with Core Theater to produce Dream at the Cox Playhouse Theatre in Plano. Running with a small budget and large ambition, they put on their first solo Triple J production of Christie’s original work, The Zookeeper’s Journal, at the Bath House Cultural Center. And this summer Triple J Production debuted Christie’s original, One Call Away, at the Festival of Independent Theater at the Bath House. Their latest production, another Christie original entitled Superhero!, is currently casted and in production.
Triple J Production may be finding its footing, but Christie’s success isn’t clouding his awareness of where they stand comparatively. He said he would always see himself as an underdog.
“It’s always about who’s big, who’s hot, who’s the star, and who’s got talent,” he said. “No one cares about the underdog because they don’t matter in this industry. It’s my mission to give those artists a chance. If it doesn’t work out, it shouldn’t be because no one knew who you were or because no one’s seen your work. It’ll be just because it wasn’t right for the time.”
Christie plays the role of advocate, but he also understands that it is not likely he is going to change the face of theater at 23.
“I know I haven’t paid my dues,” he said. “I know I haven’t gone through enough rejection and enough failure that so many artists go through before you can finally say, ‘I made it.’ I understand that and I respect that.”
Christie acknowledged the very real possibility that his writing won’t be taken seriously until he’s in his forties, but chooses to be humbled rather than hardened by the critiques and reminds himself that they’re necessary for his growth. Christie received his first review on his 23rd birthday, and it still sticks with him.
“He gave us amazing props for being so young and for doing what so many people say they’re going to do when then they don’t,” he said. “And [in the review] he did not miss a beat on each avenue of that script. It wasn’t a bad review; it was a very constructive, detailed review of everything, and so I was just like, ‘Wow.’” Christie’s eyes widened, and he let the word linger in the air.
After receiving less than favorable reviews at the FIT Festival, Christie remains confident. Maybe it’s because he’s only five years into his plight. Maybe he’s still wearing the rose colored glasses of youth. Maybe he’s just an optimist. Either way Christie holds onto his dream and still hopes to bring more happy endings to Dallas theater.
“I don’t want to offend people because I feel like the world has enough offensive humor, negative stories, death and disease,” he said. “We need to make sure there’s still some faction of relief, a safe haven from the way of reality. Do some theater that still has that realistic taste to it, but can also uplift you and make you feel good.
Image: Jon Christie (right) as Edge in Triple J’s production of Dream