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Women and Girls: From Thunder Bay to Broadway and back again

Thunder Bay’s own Jessica Smith has just returned from an unforgettable trip to New York

THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay’s own Jessica Smith has just returned from an unforgettable trip to New York to act in a workshop production of the Broadway musical Beetlejuice JR which was put on by iTheatrics every summer for kids all over the U.S. and sometimes from Canada like Smith who was the only Canadian in her workshop.

“To be honest, I was more nervous to do this than any stage production I’ve done here in Thunder Bay because I was like, I don’t know what to expect, will I like this, will it be too challenging? I had no idea,” she said.

“And by the first day when we were all lining up to enter, I just thought, say hi to someone, just do it. So I did and I actually ended up becoming really close with this one girl and her mom and my mom became close, it was just really good that I was able to speak up and not act shy for a second.”

The week-long workshop gave smith the chance to work with many industry professionals and peers as well as giving her a chance to perform as Delia, one of the leads, on a New York City stage, a dream of Smith’s since she was a young girl.

“When I was six years old, I first loved seeing the productions at my (current) high school Saint Patrick’s High School and I would always view these musical productions and just think, oh my goodness, I need to do this, I need to be up there,” she said.

“And I started off in this little place called bounce productions that I don’t believe exists anymore and I did this one summer production of some like jukebox musical kind of Shrek thing, and it was so fun, but it was done so fast and then my mom said to the organization lady, where do I go, what can I do from here.”

Smith went on to join Paramount Live whose goal is to provide cultural enrichment in Thunder Bay through enjoyable, exciting and enlightening children's theatrical experiences.

“They said go to Paramount Live which was run by Rosa and Mike Capello and I think three years after that or two years after that, Candi and Lawrence Badanai got involved, which is fabulous because once again, without them, I don’t think I would have been able to go to this,” said Smith.

“From there, I’ve been with Paramount Live since 2012. I’ve never strayed, and it’s truly been the best experience ever. Being on stage is so fulfilling.”

Smith said her peers at Paramount Live were thrilled for her and she offered some words for others in Thunder Bay who may wish to get into acting.

“My biggest thing would be to not worry about what others will say. Like as me, as a high school student, you get it from everywhere. People are like, oh you’re a theatre kid or, oh, you only listen to Broadway albums or you don’t have a life, like, these are some of the things that people have said in the past just because I don’t think they really know what’s involved in it,” she said.

“Just always look ahead of you, look at your future. Think how this will benefit you and don’t worry about anything else from the sidelines because when you step on stage it’s life changing.”

Paramount Live directors Candi and Lawrence Badanai were thrilled to have students from Paramount Live now participating and having the honour to go to New York and work on these shows.

“We are extremely proud to see Jessica’s performance this past week and she represented the outstanding talent that we have not only in Thunder Bay, but for all of Canada (as she was the only Canadian selected),” they said in a release.

A new season of fall Paramount Live shows is in the planning stages and one day, they too hope to produce Beetlejuice JR here in Thunder Bay.

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