It’s been 25 years that Santa Fe College theater professor Gregg Jones has known English professor Stephen Robitaille before they collaborated on a work.
Now, the two professors have combined their talents for the first and last time in “Oedipus at Ichetuckneea,” before they retire in the spring.
The play incorporates hip-hop themes to convey a modern message about climate change through the professors’ adaptation of the Greek tragedy “Oedipus the King.”
Jones and Robitaille worked together to adapt the play and talk about the climate change that is creating a local water crisis. Jones is directing the play.
“I’m hoping maybe in retirement we may be able to work together again,” Robitaille said. “Who knows. But it is kind of special as we’re leaving that we’re getting to do this production together. A year ago I wouldn’t have imagined that would’ve ever been the case.”
Anna Marie Kirkpatrick, who will be playing Jocasta, performed in Jones’ first Santa Fe play, “Faust,” when she was his student in 1991.
After taking his theater performance classes, the Gainesville resident said she continued her love of fine arts through being a local actor and singer/songwriter. She said that she feels grateful that he invited her back to perform in his last show at the college.
“It’s an honor because I adore Gregg,” Kirkpatrick said. “He is such a beautiful person, and he brings such light to everybody who crosses his path.”
The 65-year-old professor has been with the Santa Fe Fine Arts program for 28 years, and has made many friendships with students and faculty through his career.
“The thing I’ll miss is the contact with the students and watching them grow and watching that proverbial light go on in their head when they get it,” Jones said.
Kate Osbron, a Santa Fe theater senior, said she changed her major from radiology to dramatic theater because of Jones.
“Gregg has been a huge inspiration just the way that he directs his cast and teaches,” the 22-year-old said.
Osbron plans to continue studying acting in New York and hopes to be a director or theater professor one day. She said Jones has cultivated an environment where students can learn to be professional but also comfortable with each other.
“The students live here,” Osbron said. “We love being here; this is like my second home.”
Jones said he has found value in his career as a teacher and sometimes a mentor to his students. From counseling in his office when family emergencies arise, to encouraging them to learn their craft instead of just directing them, Jones said he hopes to influence the students when he can.
“My goal has always been to be a source of inspiration and a source of sort of giving permission to the creative spirit that’s already in them, giving them permission to open up to it, to let it out, to be expressive human beings,” Jones said.
Jones said he keeps in touch with many of his students after they graduate and has taken trips to see some of them perform in New York.
After a recent rehearsal, Jones said he had tears in his eyes after witnessing how well everyone had done in a single take.
“I was overjoyed” Jones said. “And that’s really part of the payoff of this whole process, when you see that magic kind of happen, so I was really pleased about that.”
The play’s costumes are being crafted by costume designer, Zackery Ryan. Jones said Ryan is designing costumes that will incorporate pieces of fabric used in past performances to pay tribute to his former shows.
He said he has found great reward in the making such friendships and has enjoyed building relationships with the creative minds that have worked with him in the art of storytelling.
“It’s rare on this earth that we get to collaborate and come together in spirit and body and heart to align ourselves in the common purpose of storytelling and being creative,” Jones said. “And that’s what this job is about, that’s what it’s been about, and I just feel totally lucky that I’m one of the people on the planet that get to do that. I will definitely miss that.”
“Oedipus at Ichetuckneea” runs from Oct. 15 to 17 at the Santa Fe Fine Arts Hall, located at 3000 NW 83rd St. Tickets start at $9 for children, seniors and University of Florida students, and for adults they are $15 for floor and $12 for balcony. Santa Fe students, faculty and staff can attend for free with their college ID.