Meet Arlitia Jones, author of Come to Me, Leopards (2018 Cupcake  Fall Readings) 

Where did the idea for your play come from?

The idea for Leopards came from both a good and bad place. At the time I was running a lot and wanted to tell a story about women’s friendships and strong female bodies that didn’t have to do with being mother or wife or daughter. I wanted their femininity to be defined by their desire to run. The play was also my response to an event that happened in my hometown of Anchorage where a young woman named Samantha Koenig was kidnapped while working in an espresso hut at one of the busiest intersections in town. A serial killer took her at gunpoint. We saw it on video tape. We could see her fear as she left the hut to get in his truck. And then she was gone. For months she was missing. People organized searches, there were posters everywhere. Months later they found her. He had killed her. I remember that day vividly. Women’s hearts broke. In Alaska, the instances of violence against women are 3 times higher than the national average. It’s a sickening statistic. I remember that day we found out about Samantha looking into women’s faces I didn’t know and finding the same grief and rage I felt. I didn’t know Samantha, or her family, but I am, we are, still to this day coping with the fact that she was taken and we are living with an absence that does not heal.

What was your favorite moment in working on this piece?

My favorite moment was running the Mayor’s Marathon in Anchorage. I knew I was going to write this play about a running team who’s coach goes missing, but I wasn’t quite sure how it would all piece together. I ran the marathon that year with my friend and colleague Jill Sowerwine, who was both my running buddy and later would play Jolie in a workshop production of the play. We are both slow runners, so we had hours to kill before we reached the finish line. I was literally writing the play as we ran. I would flesh out a play and run dialogue past Jill. At one point I remember on a hilly part that was kicking our ass we actually took a bit of break and played with some of the blocking characters might use to tell the story. During that marathon I was able to map out most of the play and started writing soon after that and had a good reading draft a month later. When I think back on the race, it’s my buddy Jill running beside me that makes me smile. Running a marathon is hard enough, but doing it along side a playwright who’s telling you about her play she’s working on line by line for hours has got to be grueling. Jill earned her finisher’s medal that day. I would never have finished without her beside me. It’s a wonderful feeling to rely on friends.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on several projects. The first is a play called The Voyage of the Jennifer about a Norwegian man whose daughter has died and who now meets for the first time the African American man who received her donor heart. I’ve written about three solid drafts of it, and recently blew the whole thing up to come up with a fourth draft. The blow-up is part of my process. The other play I’m currently still writing is called Quiet Ocean (working title). It’s about an actual pod of killer whales facing extinction in Prince William Sound. The orcas are the main characters in this story. The whole thing is filled with magical realism. It’s a difficult play to write for many reasons, one being the subject matter. I started writing it a year ago and fleshed out a beginning scene in which the matriarch of the pod enters carrying the body of a newborn whale that has just died. I was worried that the audience might not buy a mother whale mourning her deceased calf that way. I used to think that until I saw the news stories of the orca mother known as J35 (Tahlequah) of J Pod who carried her dead calf for 17 days in mourning. The whole world saw that. Now I think I haven’t even begun to imagine what these whales are capable of feeling and knowing.

Finish this sentence: “I love theater that…”

…surprises me and challenges me. I love theatre that holds up my own limitations and prejudices up in front of my face until I see how ridiculous and scared I am. I love theatre that offers a path of redemption, but I must choose to take it. By this, I don’t mean a moral of the story. I mean the kind of theatre that stays with me after the show; the kind of theatre that curls up in my chests on the car ride home and I find myself breathing around it, burdened with it, knowing I have to change my life. Sometimes it works, that’s the really cool part.

What was the best advise you were given as a theater artist?

Try not to use so many words that start with P and B when I write scenes where the actors end up close arguing in each other’s faces. They end up spitting a lot and someone might get the giggles. Two actors from an early play of mine gave me this advice, who for the record never broke character or got the giggles, but did have to mop their faces backstage afterward. It’s really good advice but, alas, I didn’t take it. Now I sit in the back of the house and watch the spit fly and marvel at actors’ concentration. I don’t know how they do what they do, and I am grateful to the actors always.

What is the one thing you know as an artist now that you wish you could tell your younger self?

It’s gonna be worth it. Pay attention to the life, not the production, or the publication, or whatever finished goal I thought I had to attain. It’s the life of making that is the reward.

Outside of theater, what are you really into right now?

I’ve gone back to school to study painting and mosaics. My house is covered in paint smudges and glass tiles. I’m ecstatic to call myself a beginner again.

 What is your favorite and least favorite word?

It’s October, 2018, this is easy: my favorite word right now is VOTE. My least favorite, the word I have excised from my vocabulary in all of its iterations, capitalizations or sickening shades of orange is a word that rhymes with chump.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

There is some Italian dialogue in my play that I wrote and translated myself, despite the fact that I don’t speak Italian. It is in now way meant to be proper grammatical Italian speech. In this play, the characters are forever learning Italian, and they’re not very good at it. Also, the Verdi Marathon referenced in the play is a real thing. The opera singers serenade you and the course runs right through Verdi’s house in Fidenza, Italy. Someday I’d love to go. 


Arlitia Jones is a poet, playwright from Anchorage, Alaska. She is currently a member of Perseverance Theatre’s Playwrights’ Circle where she is working on her latest full-length play The Voyage of the Jennifer, a story about an African American man who meets his heart donor’s white father for the first time. Her full-length play Summerland was premiered in January 2017 at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. It is also slotted for productions at Washington Stage Guild fall, 2018. Before that it received a workshop production during Seattle Repertory Theatre’s New Play Festival 2014. Her short play Tornado was chosen for the 38th Samuel French OOB Short Play Festival and as the 2014 National Award Winner Summer Shorts Festival with City Theatre, Miami, Florida. Come to me, Leopards received a workshop production in 2013 at Cyrano’s Theatre and was just selected for the Cupcake Reading series with Live Girls Theatre in Seattle, Wa. Rush at Everlasting premiered at Perseverance Theatre in 2014. She is a past recipient of the Individual Artists Fellowship from the Rasmuson Foundation. She is alum of Seattle Repertory Theatre’s Playwrights’ Group. She has enjoyed residencies at The National Playwrights Winter Retreat, Hedgebrook and with Djerassi Resident Artists Program and has participated as an emerging playwright in the 2013 Director’s Lab at Lincoln Center. She is co-founder and co-artistic director of TossPot Productions ( Her volume of poetry The Bandsaw Riots won the Dorothy Brunsman Award for Poetry from Bear Star Press, Cohasset, CA in 2001. Along with Michael Evan Haney, Jones co-adapted A Christmas Carol for Perseverance Theatre which is being staged in Anchorage for the fifth consecutive year. The Ugly Children of Eve, a fairy tale for the working class, received a workshop and staged reading with Perseverance Theatre in 2016, directed by Braden Abraham of Seattle Rep. She is currently working on a full length called Quiet Ocean (working title) about a transient pod of killer whales facing extinction and the marine biologist who studies them in Prince William Sound. Member of the Dramatists’ Guild of America.