James Earl Jones
"When I was a stage carpenter," says former Manistee Civic Player James Earl Jones (affectionately known as Todd Jones by friends and fellow players) "and they discovered that I really wanted to storm the stage playing Shakespeare, they let me try." Storm the stage he did, repeating the Othello role he first played at the Ramsdell many times in later years to world-wide acclaim. He then went on to develop one of
the most recognizable voices in the entertainment media today, and to collect Tony and Emmy Awards and an Academy Award nomination.
A 1949 graduate of Brethren, MI High School, longtime Manistee area residents remember James Earl Jones as an outstanding student and athlete, excelling in both forensics and track. Jones attended the University of Michigan, originally as a pre-med major, but he quickly discoverd he was not cut out to be a doctor anc concentrated on drama.
Jones was a member of the Manistee Summer Theatre
Company at the Ramsdell Theatre during the 1953, 1955, 1956 and 1957 seasons. He was listed in the programs as Todd Jones -- a name still used by his Manistee friends and summer theatre coworkers. He held many jobs with the
group: master carpenter, Assistant Stage Manager and Stage Manager, directed a Children's Theatre play and acted in twenty-eight productions.
Voices and Silences
Because of his love for the Ramsdell Theatre, James Earl Jones held the first public signing of his book, Voices and Silences, at the Ramsdell Theatre in August 1993. The turnout of his friends from the 1950's and new admirers was overwhelming. Many waited in line for several hours to greet Mr. Jones, renew old friendships and obtain his signature on the initial public release of his book. The line stretched from
the far end of the second floor assembly hall, down the stairs, through the main theatre lobby and outside for one block.
The list of theatre, film and TV credit is too long for this page, but can be found at IMDB and IBDB.