A few weeks ago I got to meet up with Jon Rua, who I originally met as the Pirate in Spongebob Squarepants on Broadway when he highjacked a selfie pre-show. I got to see a totally different side to Jon’s art with a studio freestyle and live interview talking about joy, fulfillment and what it means to love your job and love almond flour. I left both experiences stimulated and completely inspired by the way we use our bodies as performers to tell our story and connect.
Maybe being Fit for Broadway is deeply rooted in the quest to find our unique voice or the desire to create ourselves anew every day. Inviting each of you to answer one of your favorite questions below in the comment section so we can continue the conversation.
Do you love your job?
Jon: Innately there are days you’re not tired or days you’re tired and the commitment to the moment at hand is inevitably what determines your joy for your work. Then you have shows where you feel like, “oh my god that was my favorite” and then you have other shows where you think, “Was that my favorite?” even though the output was the same. It’s an interesting thing. What I’m saying is doing the same thing over and over has it’s benefits but like anything you love, it takes work. When you say “do you love it?” my immediate answer is how do I listen to the word love? and for me, that pure joy love… there’s never any resistance to. I can’t say I feel that way about some of my job opportunities. I love the show. I don’t know if I love it as much as I love those moments in self expression, artistically that I’ve felt otherwise. And I don’t think I’ve ever felt it in an 8-show week. I guess that’s why a lot of people don’t do it. Even though people say, “You made it on Broadway, that’s your dream!” I want to make it on Broadway… cool great, and I guarantee you’ll say the same thing. It’s not like it dismisses you of that feeling as well.
So yes, I love doing what I love to do. But I’m seeking some sort of creation or place for me- my specific instrument – that allows me to feel at my max joy. I don’t know if I’ll ever find it. I think I’ll end up encountering the same thing in another outlet as well.
But I think what I recognize and I’m very aware… the performance is always great. I just don’t quite enjoy each time the same way and it’s unrealistic to try to and generally I use that as my answer to “oh, do I love it?” It depends, it’s not the same answer. In other words, yes, of course I love it but if you’re thinking about love the way I do, which is how I answer it… I guess I presume love shouldn’t feel like work but everyone has a different answer to that.
When have you experienced pure joy creating?
Jon: Maybe like what you said before… when you reach your deepest potential. I think when I’ve created something no one’s ever created before or when I’ve expressed myself in a way that I know I was brought here to do- not because no one’s ever done it, but because that’s why I was brought here. So I’m doing it as a communal thing. I’ve done that in my performances before in different specific ones that I don’t need to name.
It’s happened as an actor, it’s definitely happened as a dancer, as a singer. I’ve worked really hard to get to a position where I can express myself and I feel like it’s definitely happened there too. And the beautiful part is, it’s happened in a very hard platform which is live, Broadway theatre.
But I think, and I have to admit this, probably doing it for the first time, that my truest potential exists as an actor and as a choreographer. As an actor, I don’t know that I’m going to get that chance, that true chance to be a vessel where you’ll say, “Oh Jon Rua, when he played this part, it made me feel this way” Not to be well known but just to be like, I remember that feeling… you attune that feeling to that vessel who I happen to be named, Jon Rua.
As a choreographer, people know me as probably “that guy who dances like that…” There’s so many amazing dancers out there. I think mainly I translate feeling into movement and people are either woke to it or not but they certainly feel something. I don’t know that I’ve had the platform quite yet to really resonate it. But i’ve felt it during that too.
So that pure joy exists in moments when I choreograph, when I’m creating and in moments when I’m playing a part that I know can only be played by what I have to offer. In those creative moments is the purest most celebratory outer body, inner body joy I could ever feel and I won’t hide from it.
And the fact that I can’t achieve it all the time shouldn’t make me sad but it makes me sad and I compare everything to that. Because I know there’s gotta be a way with my realized energy to achieve it but I haven’t been able to yet. So, I guess better to love than to never loved at all… True. But this human, conditional mind of ours always reminds me of what I don’t have as opposed to what I do have.
How do you define purpose?
Jon: Simply, what are you here to do for the greater whole. Finding a balance for you and for the whole. Because it could easily become about you because it validates you. But I’m really trying to find the purpose that does that but keeps an awareness that it’s validating me for what might serve the whole. I think that’s what really feels right even though your mind doesn’t want it to feel right, it feels the most right.
I wonder if because I truly am going for my purpose, if I’ll ever make it? Because I’m authentically going for it. I don’t know if there’s an answer cause I want to achieve my purpose. I just think it’s going to take a different route than the immediate gratification and that’s hard for our minds to deal with since we’re built up in a capitalistic society and a lot of us come from different incomes… so you wonder like, how long before I do it – my time’s passing – my body clock – my interest. Am I interested? Am I not?
What’s creating you?
1. Music, artists like Hammock, Coheed and Cambria, Thrice, Musical Theatre music, hip hop, old school music.
2. Almond Flour. Almond flour has been my happiness. I love it.
3. The ability of being present. Presence knowing. Presence is the answer to everything that’s ever existed.
4. Family and love from significant others. Support, knowing love, tribe. My tribe of spiritual journeymen.
5. Ultimate fighting and mixed martial arts. I suppose just anything artistic that’s speaking of constant venturing into the unquestionable and unknown and just continuing forward. All art whether it’s movies, films, podcasts, conversations, actual sports.
Those are the five. I have to say one thing, I’m not boldly looking at what’s going on in our socio-economical political climate because I feel as if, whether it’s self serving or not, I truly feel like the one thing I’m here to do is inspire humanity via artistic expression and creation. So I’m trying to do that as best as possible cause at the moment with my facility, I think that’s where I’m most effective, as opposed to say, quitting Broadway and becoming an activist and trying to change our social climate. That’s not what I feel like I would do… that would be my other choice or making the phone calls, we say, I’ll call. I call and resist, for sure.
I feel like that’s not a part of my conversation typically and I don’t know if I’m disappointed in myself or rationalizing that my impetus isn’t to leave what I’ve been building, more so to go further into what I’ve been building so as to make an impact somewhere. Who knows, maybe one day Trumps kid’s kids will watch it and be like, oh things should be different or I feel this.
Those are five things, and of course, those are subterranean, spiritual deep things. The only thing that really stands out as a staple is almond flour. And obviously my relationships with loved ones… my girl, my mother, my father, my brothers, my friends.
Working out and almond flour have been the things that make my body respond in a way that makes me feel excited. Oh, and this thing called ugly dip. My girl makes this thing called ugly dip. It’s really healthy and I eat it all the time. I’m trying to eat as healthy as possible so I don’t become fat again. #fatboyproblems.
Do you feel fulfilled?
Jon: Yes, because I know better. No, because I’m an artist and I’m a seeker. I’ll never stop. So yea, it’s possible to be fulfilled and still want more. Same reason I was probably fat growing up… I say fat, because I felt fat. I was definitely overweight. The transition [to being healthy] was seamless in a sense that once I decided I didn’t want to be, once I was conscious enough to know that I could do something about it, I did something about it. I went to the gym, worked out, dropped 30 lbs immediately but I was obsessive so… It only made me recognize my mental, habitual nature anyway which is probably the reason I was eating a lot. So it’s more about how to apply that energy. Energy still exists within me, it’s how you apply it and how you manage it. It’s what makes us great. It’s also what can be a burden. A playwright wrote once, a play I did once… “The only difference between a genius and a madman is success.” I’m sure the genius still thinks he’s a madman and someone else thinks he’s a genius.
How do you find joy as an artist?
Jon: Express and create whenever you can, even in the dark times. Cause in those moments, you’re like (*sound of epiphany*) Perhaps in these two songs I free styled to, trying to explore my innate expression after putting work in and finding how I was responding in a moment, I moved you. In a way that you can’t even really put in to words or might not even share. Or you might know exactly how to say but in a way that you hadn’t felt before. That would be how. Because it wasn’t just for me. You got something out of it and you’ll do what you want to do with it. And it was for me too. And it was for those artists who put hours and hours making [the song that inspired my freestyle] and they think no one’s listening to it and that’s all I do is listen to it. They’re a band named Owel, (song- “Reborn”) from New Jersey and no one really knows them and they’re amazing. And perhaps it takes me moving for people to have an accessibility cause rock isn’t respected quite as much.
Maybe that’s why I freestyle every day. My way to feel like I still have a voice that’s inherently my own. Maybe the same reason you’re doing this.
Photos and Interview by Jane Jourdan.