Jacksonville Performing Arts was created in 2017 from a dream that I had always had since being a child. I would spend hours creating shows and would subject my family to even more hours of watching the shows. It was not being in the show that was my attraction, but what the mini-productions would do for everyone around me. For a moment, life and all the struggles that so many face would fade away and we would all be transported to the story being told. It was a time of connection, laughter, and peace. As I grew older, I had the wonderful opportunities to perform in London, Oxford and Stratford-Upon-Avon. This is where my experience came from.
My biggest inspiration came from the Bob Hope Christmas Variety shows. It was a natural fit to start Jacksonville Performing Arts at the USO of NC, Jacksonville Center. Our first production was a variety show and we donated 50% of all ticket sales to the USO for our service members. We were able to donate over $12,000 to the USO over the next four years. When the USO Jacksonville was deemed unsafe and closed, decisions had to be made.
Fast Forward to 2023 and we have the world’s first-ever “Boutique Theater”. We may not be as large as other theaters but we are mighty in our shows and programs. I always knew the Arts were essential in a child’s life. It activates something that is so beautiful and every child blossoms and finds their voice, confidence and above all, friends. We run programs for 8 to 16-year-olds. Each program runs for 10-11 weeks with a full production at the end. Every budding thespian can create their characters in a supported and encouraging environment. The changes I see every day are astonishing and magnificent.
I recently opened up my Teen Outreach program which is a non-profit organization. This was driven by my experience of being homeless and alone at 14. There are so many outside influences that our teens have to battle every day. The Teen Outreach program is free and is designed to be a place for creativity, positivity, and peer support. Our Teens will be performing “Grease” this summer and I am so proud of them all. The best part is that they become a family that extends past the show. The friendships built last even when they go off to college or move away.
We also have an adult division that is also free to participate, which will be performing the Broadway Musical “Beauty & the Beast’ this summer at the Base Theater, Camp Lejeune. We are thrilled to be able to bring this to Jacksonville.
I designed my programs so that whatever age you are, there is a place for you.
The best part of my job is that I know I found my purpose. It took me a long time to get here. I have an amazing team that believed in me and what I was trying to do. I have an even more amazing husband that is my rock and makes everything work, and my wonderful son, who is my loudest and greatest supporter. But the best part of it all is that I am so thankful to be here. It was never about being on the stage for me, but to be able to stand on the sidelines and be the greatest cheerleader for all who walk through my door. If you are going to make something, make a difference.
If you are interested in becoming a sponsor for the nonprofit 501-C3 Teen Outreach program, please visit www.jpanc.com/sponsorship.