Jennifer Jones of Westmont began Kids on Stage, a theater troupe for ages 5 to 10, because she didn’t find many theatrical opportunities for younger children in Johnstown.
She started last June with a summer production of “The Lion King” at Community Arts Center of Cambria County in Westmont followed by a fall performance of “The Wizard of Oz” in November and a spring performance of “Disney’s 101 Dalmatians Kids” in March, both at Westmont Middle School.
Jones said news of the opportunity for younger children to have a chance to act spread by word of mouth and on Facebook.
“I work so every child has at least one line,” Jones said. “Every parent wants to see their kid shine. Even a 5-year-old can present a line and feel in the spotlight. Don’t discount younger kids because they’re young.”
Jones has a lot of children ages 5 and
6 and is in the process of gauging interest in a juniors group for ages 10-14.
“It gets to the point where they leave in the fourth grade, then don’t have anything to do,” Jones said. “They have the passion and desire and nowhere to go. If I don’t try, I do them a disservice. If it doesn’t work out, at least I made the effort. I hate for them to have the talent and desire and not do anything about it.”
If Jones decides to divide her acting troupe into two groups, she would more than likely have to add an additional director.
“They would have to care about it as much as I do,” she said. “It would be a challenge to find someone. They would have to look at the kids and want it for them as bad as they do. It’s important to them as kids. Someone like that would be difficult to find.”
Jones has been involved with theater since high school and continued with it in college.
“I took classes on the technical side of theater, but I was never trained to run a production,” Jones said. “Kids on Stage is a new venture.”
Jones found out in late April that Kids on Stage was selected to receive a grant from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies under the Robert Waters Charitable Trust.
Her brother-in-law is treasurer for the Pennsylvania Consort Society and helped walk her through the grant-writing process.
“Kids on Stage is affiliated with the consort society,” Jones said. “I could have figured it out, but he helped with the grant writing. He has a vested interested because my nieces have parts. He sees the benefit of the program.”
There is never a charge for any Kids on Stage performance because Jones wants to give back to the community.
She will take a break from Kids on Stage for the summer to recharge.
Jones hopes to bring in A Class Act from New York, which includes a Broadway actor and director, to do a workshop.
She will announce the Kids On Stage fall show June 1.
“It’s closely guarded to see if it works out,” Jones said.
Anyone interested in Kids on Stage may view its website at www.johnstownkos.com or its Facebook page.
Jones, who is 35, is working on a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Pitt-Johnstown.
“I graduate next spring,” Jones said. “I would love to teach. My goal is to have a classroom of my own plus keep Kids on Stage. Right now my schooling takes up time, but it’s extremely important to my family and a commitment to myself.”
Jones grew up in northeast Philadelphia, graduating from high school in 1994 and attending Lock Haven University for two years before having to go to work.
She met and married her husband, Keith, in 1999, while working in State College.
Keith Jones grew up in Johnstown, and the couple moved back to the area in 2001.
“I’m enjoying Johnstown,” Jones said.
“It’s a great small town and has a nicer feel of community. I think I made a good adjustment. In Philadelphia, you can go up and down the street and not know anyone, but here you can’t go to the store without seeing someone you know.”
Because of infertility problems, the Jonses have worked hard to become the parents of 7-year-old twin daughters, Ryleigh and Keira.
“It was five years before the girls,” Jones said. “I view family and children differently now. We both feel a responsibility and getting two at once was a bonus.”
After years of infertility, Jones feels that being a mother is her main purpose.
“I’m busy, but I’m beyond blessed to have the girls,” Jones said. “I appreciate every moment. You blink and they’ve grown.”
The Jones girls may be twins, but they have their own interests.
Reilly enjoys soccer and piano lessons, while Keira loves to swim.
Both girls love to sing and perform and get the chance through their mother’s theater program.
“It’s easy to pour my heart and soul into it because they love it,” Jones said. “They would do it every day if they could.”
Jones volunteers at Westmont Elementary School, doing anything the teachers need.
“As a future teacher, I want to be connected to the school and the girls,” Jones said. “I do it three days a week for a couple hours.”
Jones enjoys doing research on ideas for shows, songs, set design and audio equipment when she isn’t working on a show.
She enjoys spending time with her family, especially her mother-in-law and father-in-law, who live close by.
The Jones household also includes three cats, all former strays.
Finnigan is the newest member and less than a year old.
The other felines are KC, short for kitty cat, whom the girls named, and Syma, who is 13 years old.
“We got Finny when he was a couple weeks old,” Jones said. “The girls dress him in doll clothes and carry him upside down. He doesn’t care.”
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