J. Jason Daunter: Stage Manager and Educator – Theatre People
By Mitch Stark
A big week for the arts, TheatrePeople! This week I’m so excited to introduce you to a rock star in the world of theatrical production, as well as drama education and inspiration—J. Jason Daunter! At his roots a thespian, Jason has worked on some big Broadway shows over the past 15 years, and often mingles with the stars. His Projects with Jason is a great success, and he seeks to remind people that ‘they are part of something larger.’
I hope you enjoy his interview as much as I did!
J. Jason Daunter, who worked on Broadway’s To Kill a Mockingbird with Jeff Daniels
What’s a show that inspires you? (explain away!)
Recently, it was Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. This material is still so relevant, unfortunately. It speaks to civility and trying to understand our neighbors. I love shows that still hold a place in the modern world.
What’s one of your happiest moments in theatre?
I love the preview period during a new production. The idea that you have rehearsed all day pretty much each night in previews is bringing something new to the show. The entire team is working together to make those changes happen, etc. It is the time when people are exhausted and yet collaboration, drive, and determination come to the forefront.
What’s the biggest ‘fail’ or goof you’ve seen on stage? (do tell the story)
Having been on Wicked for so many years a “no fly” show is never fun (i.e. Elphaba does NOT Defy Gravity at the end of the show). Any shows with lots of automation and computer effects will, without fail, always have a hiccup at some point. As long as no one is hurt you can always chuckle after the fact when the computer decides to take over. An open mic backstage that is open during a scene it isn’t supposed to and you hear a toilet flush. There are so many. However, one that always sticks with me is when the Flatheads, the big puppet creatures in the Emerald City “One Short Day” sequence in Wicked, would fall. Because the performers hands are inside the costume to operate the extending head mechanism, if they fell over they had no hands to help themselves stand-up. They were like weeble wobbles and typically a dresser would have to go out and help drag them offstage. This was not a regular occurrence but was comical when it happened.
Why do you love theatre?
Where do I start!?!?! It’s collaborative, it’s live, it changes with the times, and it truly saves lives! It is an art form like none other and takes every single person including an audience to make that show happen.
Theatre is for…
Theatre is the home to all. It is the place where all should feel welcome whether it is on the stage, or backstage in dim lit , the box office, a scene shop, the orchestra pit, or even as a patron. We bring our collective unique energy to this art and it takes everyone to make it happen.
More about J. Jason Daunter
Jason has spent the last fifteen years working professionally on the road and in New York City on Broadway. His Broadway management credits include; To Kill a Mockingbird starring Jeff Daniels, Meteor Shower, A Doll’s House, Part 2 starring Laurie Metcalf, Shuffle Along, Wicked, Glory Days, and Cyrano De Bergerac starring Kevin Kline. National tours include: A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder, Wicked, Chicago, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and A Christmas Carol. Jason has been fortunate to work closely with theatre luminaries such as Meryl Streep, Chita Rivera, Steve Martin, Aaron Sorkin, Chris Cooper, Laura Benanti, and directors from Bartlett Sher, Joe Mantello to Jerry Zaks and George C. Wolfe. On the national level of Educational Theatre Jason is the recipient of the Educational Theatre Association’s President & Founders Awards. Jason is a proud member of Thespian Troupe #5140 (Fort Zumwalt North High School in O’Fallon, MO) and an Honorary Member of Troupe #5929 and #2129.