After turning 30, I became increasingly aware that there was still something I needed to do, and the sooner I did it, the better. I always knew that I wanted to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree in theatre, and for most of my life, I just assumed it would be in Acting. By then, however, Directing had become my true passion, and had eclipsed everything else. It was also the area I had the least amount of training and experience in. I applied to several directing programs all over the country, and decided to attend Illinois State University. Upon further research, I discovered that ISU had a rich theatrical tradition. Among other things, Illinois State has long been renowned for its strong and competitive undergraduate acting program. In fact, the founders of Chicago's famed Steppenwolf Theatre Company all came out of ISU: Laurie Metcalf, John Malcovitch, Rondi Reed, Jeff Perry,Terry Kinney, etc. In subsequent years, ISU produced Glee's Jane Lynch, Will and Grace's Sean Hayes, and many others. This long tradition of excellence meant that the School of Theatre had one of the largest and most talented pool of actors in the country from which I could cast from.
The graduate directing program seemed to be on the verge of something great - it was maturing and growing, and had recently produced some very successful directors. Another appealing factor was that unlike many graduate directing programs, ISU directors were allowed - required - to direct a play every single semester on campus. The plays would begin modestly, but get progressively larger in budget and design as time went on. What's more, director's would have the opportunity to direct in at least three different spaces - a small black box, a fully equipped mid-size flexible thrust / round space, and a large-capacity Standard Proscenium performing arts center. Another enticing element of the program was that the renowned Illinois Shakespeare Festival operated out of the School of Theatre, and as a directing student, I had preference for coveted directing positions within the summer Festival. Ultimately, one of the most significant reasons why I chose ISU over other schools, was its close proximity to Chicago and that city's vast theatrical resources. The final and most important reason I chose to attend Illinois State University over other flashier and well-known programs, was the strength and character of the theatre faculty. I was struck by their capacity of knowledge, humility, kindness, and honesty. I felt an instant kinship.
During my first year of graduate school, I worked tirelessly to organize and raise the necessary funds to be able to bring Pullitzer-Prize-nominated playwright, author, and film director, Adam Rapp, to the ISU Campus. Over the course of three days, I personally hosted Mr. Rapp, who was gracious enough to participate in Master Classes, sat for an invited interview with me, recorded a radio broadcast, screened a film adaptation of his own play, Blackbird, and even managed to play a spirited game of basketball with several of us students from the School of Theatre.
My first summer in Normal, I was cast as an actor in the resident company of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. I had a wonderful summer acting and getting to know dozens of actors and crew members from all over the Midwest. The next summer, I chose not to return as an actor, but instead, came back as an Assistant Director to the Artistic Director on The Tempest. In fact, for my last two years at ISU, I had the great privilege of working as the Assistant to the Artistic Director of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, and was chiefly responsible for scheduling and auditioning actors, setting up auditions and related events throughout the country, and establishing and maintaining correspondence between actors and the Festival.
After finishing all my coursework on campus, I moved to Chicago, to complete two professional directing internships. While there, I Assistant Directed a new play called Tree at the Award-Winning Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre, and later Assistant Directed an award-winning new play called The Outgoing Tide, starring Tony-Winners John Mahoney, Rondi Reed, and an original founding member of Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre Company, Thom Cox.
After three rigorous, challenging, but ultimately rewarding years, I proudly graduated with an MFA in Directing from Illinois State University (GPA: 4.0). Over the course of three years, I directed the following plays: It's Complicated, This Property is Condemned, Blackbird, A Perfect Wedding, Macbeth and Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
Les Liaisons Dangereuses (2010)
Original Poster Design
Illinois State University
Raquel Medina, Jackie Trabilsy, & Kristina Reyes
Photographer: Pete Guither
I was born in Massachusetts, but moved to Maine when I was nearly one years old. It was in my hometown of Bangor, where I first became active in theatre around the age of six. By the time I had reached twelve, I was already very active in local community theatre and performing professionally in plays and commercials. Once I reached high school, I began competing on the high school Speech and Debate team, where I was honored with several trophies and awards. While in high school, I also earned awards as an actor in the State of Maine One-Act Play Festivals. I eventually auditioned, and was accepted into a number of good college and university theatre programs, but enthusiastically chose Emerson College in Boston. Almost immediately, I began training in Voice and Shakespeare with the world-renowned vocal coach and acting teacher, Kristin Linklater, whose seminal text, Freeing Your Natural Voice is the textbook for voice classes throughout the world. During my sophomore year, I had the exciting opportunity to study abroad in Emerson's Kasteel Well program. For several months, I lived in a 14th century medieval castle located in the Dutch province of Limburg, in the small village of Well, The Netherlands. While there, I had the chance to train with a European acting teacher, who taught a variety of styles, such as Jacques Lecoq, Commedia dell'Arte, and pantomime. During my time there, I traveled extensively throughout Europe. After four years of rigorous training, I graduated from Emerson with a BFA in Acting, cum laude, with a Minor in Literature.
After graduation, I accepted another teaching job in Baltimore, Maryland, where I took over a vibrant theatre program, and nearly all of the classes I taught were theatre classes. I was delighted to inherit a large and very well supported theatre program in a school with a reputation for its high test scores and generous support of the arts. By the end of my first year, I was selected to help write and revise the Theatre Arts Curriculum for the State of Maryland Department of Education and the Baltimore County School Department. Another distinction came shortly thereafter, when I was chosen to be a Master Teacher, and taught specialized theatre classes to my colleagues at a Fine Arts Festival for Baltimore County teachers. While in Baltimore, I continued to act and direct at local professional theatre companies, while teaching high school during the day.
Once my training was finished, I moved to Los Angeles, where I spent two years trying to break into the film business, while starting my own theatre company on the side. My time in Los Angeles was often discouraging, but ultimately taught me many invaluable lessons about the business side of acting, and about managing my own theatre company. Perhaps even more importantly, it taught me fundamental lessons about making theatre that was both profitable and entertaining. Given my frustrating experience in LA, I decided to join the Peace Corps, but before I joined, I came to the conclusion that two years was just too long to go without doing any theatre at all. However, I still desperately wanted to give back to my community, so I compromised by enlisting in AmeriCorps National Service, and was assigned to an inner-city high school in Pittsburgh, PA. I proudly served a year tutoring and mentoring at-risk students. While there, I designed and implemented a vibrant after-school theatre program called ACTNow! (Actor's Committed to Tolerance) and directed my very first play. It was an original work, written and conceived by me and my students. The performance was riveting and I had never seen an audience respond so viscerally. It was in that moment that I first realized the profound possibility of directing, and how it seemed to suit so many of my diverse interests. Starting then, I began to pursue more and more directing jobs. The play's success also led to a permanent position as the school's Theatre Teacher and High School English Language Arts teacher. As a result, I went back to school for theatre education and certification. In 2003, I earned my second degree in Theatre Education, summa cum laude, from Point Park University, as well as Secondary Teaching Certifications in Theatre & Communications, 7-12.
Baltimore Headshot (2005)
Photographer: Charles Akeley
By the end of 2005, I decided to leave teaching so I could move back to the Northeast, and pursue my acting and directing career full-time. I spent the next year briefly living and working in New York City, but eventually found my way back to Boston. Not long after I arrived, I was hired as a Costumed Colonial Tour Guide for the historic Freedom Trail Foundation. For the next three years, I played the real-life historic figure, Dr. Joseph Warren. During that time, my acting career flourished, and I continuously acted at theatres throughout the city, as well as toured Shakespeare to schools throughout New England. For the first time in my life, I was was thrilled to be able to solely support myself with just my acting work alone. It also afforded me the opportunity to finally direct professionally.
The Bangor Opera House (1920)
Home to the Penobscot Theatre Company, Bangor, ME
Photo: QT Luong / Terragalleria.com
The Early Years
The Los Angeles & Pittsburgh Years
The Baltimore Times
New York City & Boston
Graduate School & Chicago Years
The Homecoming: Maine
Jon Ferreira (Front row, Center)
Emerson College @ Kasteel Well
Well, The Netherlands (1996)
Tour Guide "Dr. Joseph Warren" (2005 - 2008)
The Freedom Trail Foundation
Original Poster Design
Illinois State University
A Perfect Wedding (2009)
Original Poster Design
Illinois State University
The Outgoing Tide (2010)
Northlight Theatre Company
John Mahoney as Gunner
& Rondi Reed as Peg
Writes of Passage: A Journey in Our Own Write (2001)
ACTNow! Theatre Ensemble
Poster Design: Jon Ferreira
Gemini Theatre Company, Pittsburgh, PA
After graduate school, I felt the gentle tug of New England urging me back. I had spent three stressful and chaotic years at ISU, and I felt the urge to return to a simpler way of life, and one surrounded by familiar friends and beautiful nature. I had known many friends that had left Maine and later returned, and those who never left at all. They all knew something I didn't know. At least until now. After nearly 20 years of living and working in other countries and across the United States (what I jokingly refer to as the Diaspora), I finally surrendered and came home again. These past six years in Maine have been wonderful.
In early 2013, I was hired to direct a play for Hermon High School, that went on to win the Maine Drama Council's Regional Drama Festival, and was runner-up at States. The production was further honored with several individual awards for acting and design. That summer, I returned to the stage to act in The Tempest with Ten Bucks Theatre Company. In 2016, I returned to Ten Bucks to play Manuel in a production of Fawlty Towers, as well as perform sketches from Monty Python.
In 2013, I also launched my own acting studio, called Mainestage Actors Studio & Talent (MAST). At MAST, we offer classes in acting, acting for the camera, improvisation, playwriting for teens, voice acting, scene study, accents & dialects, and more. We have recently found a new home at 58 Main in Bangor, and added two additional teaching artists.
Official Logo: ©2014
Designed by Jon Ferreira
Since my return, I have worked as an Instructor at Bangor Adult and Community Education, teaching classes in Acting, Improvisation, and Shakespeare. Furthermore, I served as an Associate Director at the country's most Northeastern professional theatre company -- Bangor's Penobscot Theatre Company. Penobscot Theatre is now housed in the historic Bangor Opera House (pictured below), that was in fact the very first stage I ever acted on - over 30 years ago! I had not worked at Penobscot since 1994, and it was exciting to have the chance to return. On my first production, I assisted the new Artistic Director on her first PTC production of Boeing, Boeing. Next, I directed a new play called Private Property as part of PTC's annual Northern Writes New Work Festival. In the fall of 2012, I had the proud pleasure of directing the first show of the 2012/ 2013 season: Always...Patsy Cline. The show was a tremendous critical and commercial success, and sold out the entire run. In the spring of 2013, I directed the new play A Position of Relative Importance in PTC's annual Northern Writes New Work Festival.
I am currently looking for a full-time job where I can utilize my diverse talents. I am hoping to find a college teaching job, an executive / artistic / education director position at a local theatre, or work at a non-profit in public relations/ marketing or education. My passion for theatre and teaching is only matched by my love and devotion to my community - wherever I happen to be living. I am committed to helping build a vibrant society of artists and citizens, who not only take pride in their home, but are devoted to the idea that by spreading and promoting art everywhere, we improve the quality of all our lives. I'm committed to social justice, and strive to use art and my classroom to be a place to foster diversity, inclusion, and tolerance. Wherever I end up next, I know that I will work hard to instill those values in the next generation of artists and leaders.
The Next Chapter...
Red Sky Sunset at the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
Bass Harbor, ME
Photo: George Oze