"The first act is really about a relationship and how it develops," says Morgan David Jones of his role in A Line in the Sand. "I meet a Palestinian boy and everything my character's been told about what these people are is kind of broken once he develops this friendship with this young boy, instead of just lumping them into this whole group of terrorists as a lot of media will portray it. It's a meeting of two minds that are alike and how they connect because of how empty their lives are. But then brutal things happen."
When first produced, audiences still had faith in the basic virtues of the Canadian Forces so when, as the press blurb says, "A Line in the Sand rips the benevolent mask off recent western peacekeeping operations and challenges Canada's long treasured national mythology that it is a nation of quiet diplomats," the play was a sensation. Since then there has been news of the Afghani ladyboys, DADT, Colonel Russell Williams and many other horrors. What was shocking in 1997, is all too familiar in 2016.
"A Line in the Sand is based on what happened in Somali with the death of a young boy on base there," says Jones. "The first act is the development of the relationship, and the second act, very short, is information driven. In the third act my character is being investigated, interrogated by a colonel played by John Cleland. It asks why are we involved in war and can we ever not be involved."
As this is the 'Naked Season' at Factory Theatre, "It's almost like A Line in the Sand is a new play," says Jones. "It's very stripped down and works well as it is set in only two locations, on in the middle of the desert and the next in a tent." Shortly after the rehearsal process began, director Nigel Shawn Williams decided to replace everything other than the actors with sand. "It was a turnaround in the head, but it allows us to strip bare and not worry about physical props. It fits really well with the concept of the Naked season and what the sand represents." Jones is cagey about how this is accomplished but raves about the results, "It's been very exciting to create. It highlights what's actually going on, that life is about relationships and character."
Jones has a thorough grounding in classical theatre and had built a solid career in his birthplace, Australia, that culminated in earning acclaim opposite Cate Blanchett in Liv Ullman directed production of A Streetcar Named Desire. "We went from Sydney to Washington to New York. It was an incredible opportunity. I wanted to keep the momentum going in North America and, with Australia you have to either commit completely to it, or you have to leave."
Jones then spent five years in Vancouver. "I wanted to concentrate on my TV career, it's a different set of skills. In Australia I was always cast in a specific role, I play the guy-next-door but he's actually a big baddie." Jones worked steadily and amassed an impressive array of credits while still managing to direct a version of Blowing Whistles, a titillating play about a gay threesome gone wrong, and play a swoon-worthy Romeo for Edmonton's Citadel Theatre. He's pleased to note that, "In theatre I get to play the lover."
But his most memorable role, so far, harkens back to his Australian stereotyping. In the hit horror series Supernatural, Jones played a Leviathan (a sort of giant human leech) disguised as one of the protagonist brothers who was then disguises himself as an FBI agent. Jones laughs when asked if he got the role because of his resemblance to sex symbol Jared Padalecki or because of his ability to project Padalecki's smoldering charisma. "I don't really see myself that way," says Jones modestly. "I think it's more because I look like a little rookie FBI agent. But when I auditioned for the role, the casting director did say, 'There's something very dark about you . . .'"
"Something dark" is perfect for transforming into a bloodthirsty creature on a killing spree, or a soldier dealing with a quagmire of moral issues and the consequences of violence. A Line in the Dark does sound, as Jones says, "brutal" and a little harrowing. "To be honest, we can't shy away from that because it is, it's set in the first Gulf War and it highlights our responsibility, the concept of western countries or the UN, the responsibility that we have there or we don't have. The way I look at it though is that it's really a relationship because I play a Canadian soldier who meets this Palestenian boy. It's a beautiful thing in the sense of knowing more about the world and the people around us."
A Line in the Sand runs March 8 to March 27 at Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St. factorytheatre.ca