By Jonathan Norton
In this strikingly inventive autobiographical work of drama, Jonathan Norton delves into the story of American systemic racism, illustrating life for one Dallas household and their candy shop during the drug epidemic of the late 1980’s.
Publication Date: December 7, 2021
penny candy: a confection, which had its acclaimed premiere at the Dallas Theater Center in 2019, follows one family as they seek to balance their responsibilities to their community and to one another. Growing up in a candy house sounds like every kid’s dream. But for 12-year-old Jon-Jon, helping his father run Paw Paw’s Candy Tree out of their run-down one-bedroom apartment isn’t quite a dream come true. As their neighborhood of Pleasant Grove, Dallas sees a surge of violence fueled by epidemic drug use and increasing racial tensions, the business begins to fail and danger looms immediately outside the family's front door.
Jonathan is the Playwright in Residence at the Dallas Theater Center. His work has been produced or developed by Actors Theatre of Louisville/Humana Festival, Dallas Theater Center, PlayPenn, InterAct Theatre Company, Pyramid Theatre Company, Black and Latino Playwrights Conference, Bishop Arts Theatre Center, African American Repertory Theatre, Soul Rep Theatre, Kitchen Dog Theater, Undermain Theatre, South Dallas Cultural Center, the National Performance Network, and the National New Play Network.
Jonathan’s play Mississippi Goddamn was a Finalist for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and won the 2016 M. Elizabeth Osborn Award given by the American Theatre Critics Association.
Other awards include: Artistic Innovations Grant from the Mid-America Arts Alliance, SDCC Diaspora Performing Arts Commission, the TACA Family New Works Fund and the TACA Bowdon Family Foundation Artist Residency Fund, and Jubilee Theatre's 2019 Eastman Visionary Award.
“[T]he writing is at once both plot-twistingly thrilling and hilarious.” —Caroline Macon Fleischer, American Theatre
“Jonathan Norton’s penny candy is first and foremost great storytelling, filled with plot turns and other lively action that never seem contrived. Set in an era when drugs and gang violence were becoming problems anew in the inner city — in this case Dallas’ Pleasant Grove, where Norton grew up in the 1980s — its characters are vividly drawn without ever falling into caricature or cliché.” —Tim Diovanni, Dallas Morning News
“penny candy is a powerhouse—humorous, harrowing, and explosive. With clear-eyed compassion and a naturalistic immediacy, Norton has transmuted the experiences of his upbringing into a profound drama that honors the past while speaking boldly to our present moment.” —Dan O’Brien, author of A Story That Happens
“penny candy crackles with razor-sharp dialogue, thrilling plot twists, and complex characters who are written with both unstinting honesty and genuine compassion.” —Kevin Moriarty, Enloe/Rose Artistic Director, Dallas Theater Center
“Jonathan Norton is a masterful storyteller! In “penny candy”, Jonathan Norton brilliantly blends comedy & tragedy, drawing on his own life experiences to shape a wholly authentic narrative. The characters are all well developed and sufficiently complex to keep an audience intrigued as the play unfolds. “penny candy” took me on an emotional ride, while Norton’s always deft use of language firmly situated me in the Pleasant Grove neighborhood that is home to his characters. “ —Vicki Meek, Texas Artist of the Year 2021