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02 October 2012

Tony Jasper, playwright, actor, broadcaster

Tony Jasper, playwright, actor, broadcaster

Tony Jasper is founder of the Jasperian Theatre Company, writer of innumerable plays, actor, radio and broadcaster. He is director of the Arts Centre Group, administrator of its Jack Clemo Poetry Award and of a new Drama Competition in 2012.

Tony has several degrees in theology and a diploma in education. He published several books and has been part of several radio and television programmes.
What did you want to become when you were a child?
A preacher. I would study books on preachers and their sermons and would preach them to my cat Twinkles. I am assuming Twinkles came forward at the appropriate moment!
How did you become involved with broadcasting?
I produced a book that took people from a pop song lyric into scripture – it was then very novel. It attracted the interest of The Times, BBC Schools and Peggy Bacon who was the original producer of Children's hour and in charge of Fourth dimension and material for BBC World Service. I also met a dynamic producer called Roy Trevivian. And so, it began to flow.
What's the best programme you have been involved with?
That is so hard to answer for each and every moment has its possibilities. I would choose a series for Radio 4 under their Seeds of faith umbrella, Celebration rock for Radio Hallam, and it was a joy to work for the British Forces Broadcasting Service. And there were moments for BBC Schools under Ralph Rolls.
What do you enjoy in playwriting?

'Enjoy' is a difficult word – playwriting means day after day thinking and evaluating and so revising and revising but trying to keep the inner spark that was hopefully there at the beginning! The enjoyment and blessing really comes from performance of words. Sometimes an actor can so treat your script in such a way that you think "that sounds good!" and of course in the end it is how it is taken by a live audience. However I'm sure I am not alone in thinking that some better scripts do not get recognition.
Is creativity caught, learned, laboured, or is it genetic?

Oh, what a question! There is a craft and style to be learned. I have always in my mind, though, a desire to do something that appears different! Theatre and performance has its own disciplines and style. Lots of labour – yes. Creativity comes - suddenly you write. At other times, you should give up and do something other and return later. Observing and hearing people is important. And, to put something else into this mix, as a Christian you must have an awareness of biblical teaching.
(How) has faith shaped your acting career?
Faith is central and central and central! I do launch off many of the great biblical themes.
What is your vision for the arts?
Assaulting and confronting, energising and growing in people's lives, letting loose ways and means for us to focus on the many gifts God has given, to enable people to laugh and cry together, walk together, dream and pray together, and above all celebrate the great visual of faith of 'bread and wine.'
What makes you angry?
I am perturbed that people make the Bible so holy and treat it so reverently that they fail to notice the excitement of the gospel writers to proclaim the Good News in the midst of all things we encounter in our lives. Innocently perhaps trivialising - so for instance talking to children about Martin Luther King and his famous speech and stating that lots of people want to do good, and that is that. So ignoring the pain and suffering of deprived people, ignoring how some people are pushed aside or treated unjustly, how the dream of his came from situation but also from a deep faith rooted in the suffering cries of scripture and ultimately in Christ's own crucifixion and what it means. In other words escaping depth, skating the surface becomes it seems pleasant to do so and it does not disturb or upset. Some of the hard sayings of Jesus get set aside because we want a faith that it tidy and nice.

What would you do with a million quid?
Apart from the basic needs of humankind in so many places and situations, it would be to set loose so much creativity that is out there but lacking real backing, and to bring new life and vitality into the Christian cause. Unfortunately the great problems for so many of humankind need more than a million but why are governments so unconcerned and tinkering at the edges?
During the Second World War, Winston Churchill's finance minister said Britain should cut arts funding to support the war effort. Churchill's response: "Then what are we fighting for?"

So how are we doing in this time of cuts?
'Poorly', it would seem. Feeding the soul, growing our lives seems obviously so important but is one of the areas often savaged either by government, even arts agencies or within the mainstream Christian areas.
Tell us a joke
A young Jewish boy tells his mother he has got a part in the school play. His mum asks him "What's the part?" He says he is playing a dad. His mum says to him "Next time get a speaking part."