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By J. Jason Daunter posted Feb 04, 2014 5:44 AM

So my first Board Meeting for the Educational Theatre Association happened in June of 2011 on the campus of UNL.  I had been honored to be asked to join EdTA's Board of Directors and questioned what I could bring to this organization that had done so much for me through the years.  On a 10 minute break I received a phone call - that would ultimately change my life.  It went something like this...

VOICE:  Jason?
ME:  Yes?
VOICE:  It's the Wizard, you wanna come back to the Emerald City?
ME:  I guess...
VOICE:  Can you take over the National tour of Wicked next week for six months?
ME:  Um... sure.

Well here I sit almost 34 months later in a hotel room starting to put "my life" into 3 suitcases, a trunk, and a couple of Fed Ex boxes. I didn't think this transition out of the Emerald City (which was my decision to leave) was going to be as bittersweet as it has been.  We all know the power of theatre and the relationships that are developed in theatre are not the ones that corporate America will EVER understand or experience.  However, if you add the touring component to it where you are forced to be submerged in each others lives whether you want to be or not - it is an experience like none other.

In my 34 months with the show I have had 39 Principal players, over 40 Ensemble members have gone into the show, 28 of those understudied principals.  We have moved the show 28 times, gotten it to Hawaii and back again, survived Hurricane Irene, a couple of large snowstorms, and playing 6 weeks in Las Vegas (:-) ) - I did win a couple hundred dollars.  But what I walk away with is the ultimate sense of community, a community working together toward a common goal daily which is creating art and telling  a story.  It is the definition of ensemble.  Watching the crew, cast, orchestra, management, physical therapy, and merchandise all experience the country and the highs and lows together.  We have our ups our downs our joys our sorrows and we celebrate or grieve as a group.  We have had pregnancies, births, deaths, battles with cancer, alcoholism, drugs, stalkers, wild nights out, life did INDEED happen while on the road.  I also personally had my luggage and dry cleaning put in the wrong rental car and driven off from a hotel and also a water pipe burst and flood my hotel room, but ask me about those personally.  

The EdTA family is also an ensemble and we all have a common voice in our passion for theatre education and the power of this incredible art form.  Whether you are a recent high school grad, a college professor, a professional lighting designer, a first year teacher, a teacher with 30 + years experience, a retired teacher, a doctor who enjoys the art form, or just a theatre friend we all come together for a common goal - "shaping lives through theatre education."  My tour experience is so tied to my EdTA board experience as I have not known the board without the Wicked tour.  This tour also afforded us the opportunity to create and develop Making Magic, Defying Gravity and for me to have a platform to continue to carry this message of advocacy across the country.  Matt Conover, Gai Jones, and Kristin McFadden quickly became a part of my "family"  I was blessed to see them every 4-6 weeks at various places across the country.  Also, getting to directly work and collaborate with Thespian Troupe Directors, Chapter Directors, and numerous volunteers and Thespians across the country.  Sometimes even living with them or sharing meals, or seeing their high schools - it was a wild ride and showed me the power of our community.  

I have never wanted Wicked to DEFINE who I am.  However, Wicked definitely changed my career.  I have been honored to call this show home for almost six years between New York and the road.  I keep joking that in two weeks I am just plain old Jason Daunter again and that is impressive to no one but my mom and I'm ok with that.  I always knew I would leave the show when it was time, and back in December I started feeling this time was coming.  The lyrics "Its time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap"  never rang so true and hit me like a ton of bricks during a certain performance.

I was presented the opportunity to apply for a position at Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS an organization that I had volunteered with for years.  I interviewed for a position but in the meantime had decided to leave Wicked.  So, I jumped!  Didn't know if there was a net or not, but was going to jump.  I had done this before with a show called FAT PIG on Broadway and that jump proved the pool was empty (they cancelled the show two days before rehearsals started)  - however if you never jump, you are just standing around.  I announced my departure from Wicked and four days later was offered the job at BCEFA.  Moving back to NYC with a job is really great.  However, once again I don't think a job will define me.  I am finally starting to define myself.  

So why this blog rant... I don't know... I think there are things I needed to say and using a forum like this with your theatre family felt right.  I also hate packing (don't have to worry about that much longer) so a distraction from loading up what I consider my life into suitcases - writing this blog is a distraction.

Transition is always tough, whether out of something or into something.  I am doing both - I am leaving a comfortable but difficult and challenging job and transitioning into a challenging and difficult job.  "there are bridges you cross you didn't know you crossed until you crossed" 

Thank you to EdTA, the Board, Julie, the Staff, all of my adoptive Thespian Parents across the country, the countless Thespians who have stopped me at the stage door, sent a Facebook note, attended workshops, or just believed you could do something nobody else thought you could.  Debbie Daunter is so proud of me and O'Fallon, Missouri would have told you this kid from the Midwest could have never done it... well, you know what I have done it and I will do it again and as I always say - you can too.

 "I'm through accepting limits, cause someone says they're so, somethings I cannot change but till I try I'll never know"

11 Shows and counting... thanks for listening! 



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