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July 23, 2018 : Lifelong friends and castmates interviewed prior to "Hello Dolly" opening

by Brooke Arnold

 

victorWith the summer musical, “Hello, Dolly!” quickly approaching, director Victor Jones and actress Jennifer Myers sat down to answer a few questions in preparation for an upcoming special project featuring Ohio University Lancaster Theatre.

 

“We are developing an exciting project to showcase the impact Ohio University has on the communities in the state of Ohio,” said Hailee Tavoian, Associate Director of Strategy for Advancement Communication & Marketing. “In Lancaster, incredible talents like Victor and Jennifer are tremendous assets in the region and to the University. This was a great opportunity to showcase talent as an economic variable in the lasting impact of Ohio University in the state of Ohio.”

 

myersTavoian asked a variety of questions, especially centering around Director Victor Jones’ longtime friendship with actress Jennifer Myers, who auditioned for the role of Dolly Levi in the upcoming production of HELLO, DOLLY!.

 

So I want to know what brought you together as friends?

JENNIFER MYERS: He has a more detailed version of it. I just know I meet him in 9th grade, right? At Stanbury -

VICTOR JONES: It’s called Stanbury Freshman School.

JENNIFER MYERS: Yeah, and the details of that, I honestly don’t remember but I do know it had something to do with music because my first recollection of being with Victor was going over to his parents’ home, sitting at his piano and working on music which became a lifelong thing then that we did for the next forty years but that’s like my first . . . coming into that house and sitting down with him and off and away we went, becoming fast friends.
VICTOR JONES: All I remember was 9th grade, we had auditions coming up. I think it was for Mr. Smith’s Ensemble or choir or something like that and I think, Judy Fairchild, said “Jennifer Myers needs to practice a song to audition for choir or ensemble or something. Would you play the piano her?” I said “Sure, she can come over to our house” and she came over and she wanted to sing “People” from Funny Girl by Barbra Streisand. And that’s how it started.

 

Were you both involved in theatre?

VICTOR JONES: I wasn’t involved in theatre at all. I was involved in piano and voice, mainly. Singing, playing the piano, taking voice lessons, band, all those things.

JENNIFER MYERS: Yeah and I, in 9th grade hadn’t done theatre yet. I was just a wanna-be actress from the time I was like 5 years old so mine was just, watching movies and singing in my bedroom to the great shows of musical theatre. So, we didn’t really kick into any of that until we got into high school.

 

So for you, you knew at 5 years old, you knew you wanted to do musical theatre?
JENNIFER MYERS: Yeah, I was always into Judy Garland and that kind of thing. I remember seeing Colleen Fitzpatrick at Lancaster High School . . . being the lead Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady and I remember sitting there in the audience – and you think about it now, kids out there in the audience and are they inspired by what they see – but I remember seeing that musical and I wanted to do that. My parents took me to a lot of musical theatre productions as kids. So, I think that’s where – I just always have had that love for it and wanted to do it. But you don’t know that you are any good at it until you get into a high school or more formalized situation where the professionals are hearing your voice or you are auditioning and then you find out that you do have the knack for it – or hope you do!


So, tell me about Ohio University Lancaster – you mentioned a lot of Lancaster High School productions nothing was happening at the University level, theatre-wise?

VICTOR JONES: There was because when you got to high school, we then started taking field trips to here. I, um, I saw one show here which was The Fantasticks, which starred . . .

HAILEE TAVOIAN: You did that last year.

VICTOR JONES: We did do that last year. … Jeff Unger -  our choir teacher  - was actually in the production, that’s why we came to see it here. Was Jeff Wagner in the production or was he just directing?

JENNIFER MYERS: I forget.

VICTOR JONES: But our choir teacher was in a production here. So I did come here to see a show then.

 

So did you have your sights set on continuing this in college?

VICTOR JONES: Oh, I knew.

JENNIFER MYERS: Yeah. That’s always been the first love and he went on to do it. I started out in college doing it and didn’t fulfill it – kind of got off of it but I was here at Ohio University in Lancaster for a year and a half under Jeff Wagner once I had graduated from high school. I was involved in the Miss Ohio Program.

VICTOR JONES: And then we got connected again, because she was working on audition material for Miss Ohio.

JENNIFER MYERS: Yes!

VICTOR JONES: And she was singing “Before the Parade Passes By”, which is in Hello, Dolly! and she also sang “Maybe This Time” which was from Cabaret. So then she came over to our house again and we practiced.

JENNIFER MYERS: And practiced! So, then I was at this theatre for a year and a half or so and did some productions with Jeff Wagner, so it’s good to be back!

 

So, the theatre program was non-existent for many years, after Jeff Wagner passed away?

VICTOR JONES: Well, I was working as a television news producer at WJW – Fox8 News– in Cleveland, Ohio. I had just gotten the job because I had been with ABC News before that. I had only been there three months, when on June 11, 1999 – I was getting ready to produce the noon newscast – my dad called and said, “Bub” – that’s what he called me – “Bub, I need you to come home. I can’t do this anymore”. My mother had Alzheimer’s and my father had prostate cancer which was advancing, and he was actually caring for her. So, right before I had to produce the noon newscast, I went to my news director and said, “I need to take a leave of absence today immediately following today’s newscast”. So, I what I thought was going to be a three month leave of absence turned into a ten-year leave. I eventually gave my notice there and stayed home to care for my parents. That’s what brought me back. After that, I thought “Now how do I make a living in the arts in Central Ohio?” I knew I wanted to do something in theatre. So, I wrote this letter on a computer, which I didn’t know how to use a computer at the time. I managed to type up this letter to Dr. Candice Thomas-Maddox, who was the Interim Associate Dean at the time and said, “I think the theatre has been dark long enough and I think I’m the perfect person to revitalize the theatre program at the OUL Campus. May I please come in for an interview? I actually did not know how to send an email, so I mailed it snail-mail. Within 24 hours, I heard back from her saying, “Perfect timing. We were just talking about revitalizing theatre at our meeting. When can you come in for an interview?” So it all happened fast – we started with one classes which over a period of three years, became eight classes.

 

After you left the region, what was happening with you?

JENNIFER MYERS: I went into hotel sales and left behind theatre. I wasn’t performing for 20 years. Then I moved to Chicago in 1998 and when I got out there, I remembered that there was a Playhouse near me and they were doing one of my favorite shows, “To Kill A Mockingbird”. A 20-year absence was scary to come back from, but I got the role I auditioned for and haven’t stopped since. Similar to Victor, by this time my parents, who had lived in Lancaster all their lives, were starting to decline in health. I don’t think I went more than six weeks that I did not come home and see family but then I started coming in once a month, then every two weeks, trying to control things from out in Chicago. That is how I came back to the region. The timing was good and it worked out.

 

dolly2Director A. Victor Jones and his best friend of 40 years Jennifer Myers are in rehearsals for OUL’s upcoming production of “HELLO, DOLLY!” “Hello, Dolly” is a featured event in the Lancaster Festival.

 

“Hello, Dolly!” opened Sunday, July 22nd and runs through August 5th.

 

For tickets, call the box office at 740-681-3353 or visit commerce.cashnet.com/oul-theatre. Stay connected and enjoy the latest updates on Facebook at www.facebook.com/oultheatre.