My day starts in Dallas near Love Field airport, where I live 50 percent of my life. I wake up, shower, feed the dog, strap on skates to my feet, take my dog for a skate around the block, kiss the much-loved boyfriend goodbye, and pray to God that the traffic on 183 will be kind to me this morning. 45 minutes later, I take the exit ramp on University, make an illegal left turn into the parking lot of Casa Mañana, and wonder what the hell might be in store for me today.
Casa Mañana, in Fort Worth, Texas, is where I live the other 50 percent of my life.
My history with Casa arguably began when I was 17 years old and won the Betty Lynn Buckley award for Best Supporting Actor. I was the pitchiest, yet most passionate Enjolras you could have ever seen in a high school production of Les Miserables. When I fell off that barricade after being shot, I knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life. I moved to New York only two weeks after graduating high school. After graduating from AMDA in 2005, I booked the international tour of West Side Story and lived in squalor for five years in New York City. I came close to being on Broadway numerous times, but more numerous than my "close calls" with Broadway were the times I had to call my mom and dad to ask for money.
After five years of really sublime ups and extremely sobering downs, it was clear that my life in New York, at least for the time being, had reached its tumultuous end. I took one last look out of my window on 200th Street and began my journey back home to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, having no idea what might lie ahead for me.
Fast forward to 2011, the year that a YouTube video changed the course of my life.
I had received a call from someone from Casa asking about my availability for a production of Evita they were producing. Up to this point, I hadn't stepped foot in Fort Worth since my high school days and never auditioned for Casa before. It would later be revealed that a local actor mentioned my name to Wally Jones, and showed him a YouTube video of me tapping to "Moses Supposes" from Singin' in the Rain. Wally liked the video enough to hire me for Evita. Soon after Evita closed, Casa came knocking again and was wondering if I would be willing to run the dance portion of their auditions for Hairspray. It seemed that their choreographer was stuck in New York and wouldn't be able to make it down to cast the show. I squeezed it into my schedule, tightly fitting between rehearsals for Cabaret at the Dallas Theater Center. If there is one area that I have a lot of experience in, it's teaching. I have been teaching dance since I was 15 years old, and my day job in New York was a rather embarrassing one of teaching "mommy and me classes" for the New York Kids Club. I am good at connecting with people when it comes to dance, because dancing is a part of me that will never fade. It is in the fiber of my soul. So teaching a combination to a room full of dancers is like being a bird in the sky. It's where I belong.
In January of 2012, I was teaching part time for Casa Mañana as well as serving as their resident choreographer for all of their children's shows. When combined, these two jobs became a full time job. On top of this massive commitment, I worked at various schools and theaters all over the DFW area, and lived with a dog the size of a small dinosaur in a 430 square foot apartment near White Rock Lake. Not to mention trying to see my family and carry on a healthy relationship with someone who has come to mean the world to me. To say my life was hectic would be the biggest understatement that has ever been made. So when I was offered the job of Director of Education for Casa Mañana in the spring of 2012, it was an offer of stability that was a welcome change in an otherwise chaotic life.
Now my days are spent answering endless phone calls and emails from parents while still teaching 11 classes a week, a task that weighs heavily on my sanity and well being. I am also in charge of all the day to day functions for Casa Mañana's Performing Arts Conservatory, or CPAC for short. My job as Director of Education is enough to keep one person busy for a lifetime. My responsibilities don't end there, however. I still choreograph for Casa's children's series, and in January of 2013 I will be making my directorial debut, something that I have been dreaming about since I was a little kid. All of these things keep me insanely busy, but the strange part is, I love every minute of it. I certainly have my moments of being "over it," but with the love and support of my family and dear friends, these moments thankfully fade. And when they do fade, I can't help but be humbled at where I'm at.
My day ends in Fort Worth near Will Rogers Coliseum. I hop in my car, speed along the highway, making it home in time to spend some quality time with the guy and dog that matter the most, before falling asleep on the couch. I live this crazy life because it's where I'm supposed to be. The boy that used to direct and choreograph musicals for his teddy bears in the living room is now directing and choreographing musicals for real people on stage at Casa Mañana. Funny thing is, Teddy Bears are easier to work with.
◊ Jeremy Dumont has performed at Uptown Players, Theatre Three, Lyric Stage, Dallas Theater Center, and had an exceptional 2012 at Casa Mañana, most memorably in 42nd Street. Here is the video of "Moses Supposes" that turned Casa's Wally Jones onto Dumont.
And here he is rehearsing a number to "Too Darn Hot," from Cole Porter's musical Kiss Me, Kate:
◊ From now through the end of the year, look for essays from Jonathan Fielding of Amphibian Stage Productions, director Michael Serrecchia, and Bruce Wood Dance Project choreographer/dancer Joshua L. Peugh. If you'd like to contribute an essay, email Mark Lowry at email@example.com. So far, the essays in the series are from:
- Raphael Parry, artistic director of Shakespeare Dallas and Project X: Theatre
- Actress Amber Nicole Guest, who had a breakout year at Lyric Stage
- Jerry Russell, founder of Stage West
- Katie Puder of Avant Chamber Ballet
- Jonathan Pell, Artistic Director of The Dallas Opera
- Michael Federico, Shawn Magill and Seth Magill, creators of the musical On the Eve
- Playwright and dramaturg Vicki Caroline Cheatwood, whose play Ruth was produced at Kitchen Dog Theater this year.