New York is about to get a package deal. Jonathan Jensen — actor, singer and theater administrator — and his wife, actress Jessica Jensen, are headed east together. The Kauffman Center's director of patron services has been busy behind the scenes downtown, but he has also kept a foot on the stage and a hand in theater projects. On the eve of his departure, The Pitch conducted this exit interview by e-mail.
The Pitch: You're planning a move to NYC. What brought about that decision?
Jensen: It's now or never. It's always been a dream to live and work in New York, and with my recent management experience and my wife's training at UMKC, we feel confident that Kansas City has prepared us to make a splash in the biggest theater-community pond around.
What do you hope to accomplish there?
It would be great to win a Tony ... haha. More importantly, I hope that I can have some impact, big or small, on the future of our industry and the artistic community as a whole.
Terre Haute, Indiana
What brought you to KC or kept you here?
My wife is a graduate student at UMKC.
How and when did you decide on a career in the performing arts?
When I was deciding on which college to attend, I was debating whether I was going to swim in college. I had been recruited by some big schools, but I really wanted to pursue musical theater as a career. Unfortunately, swimming at 5 a.m. and rehearsing until midnight wasn't going to work out well. I distinctly remember going for a run with my best friend and talking about the decision to ditch swimming and focus on acting. I think I would have been happy as a swimmer in college, but I think my life has turned out extremely well given the choice I made. It would have been the difference of balancing my swimming career with my schoolwork and acting as opposed to just acting alone. I was able to focus much more on my studies, and I believe that paid off.
Where did you train?
Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana
How and when did you get into acting?
I was 10 when I was in my first musical, Big River. I was in the ensemble. It was produced at the local high school. I felt so cool because I was in elementary school but performing on the "big stage." That led to many bit parts as the token kid, i.e., Winthrop in The Music Man, etc. I got hooked.
How often do you perform?
Now, I'm not able to perform very often. I sang with Sutton Foster in Indianapolis, Indiana, last October. That was the last performance where I was onstage. Prior to that, I did a couple of staged readings of The Circus in Winter in Muncie, Indiana, and New York City. Locally I performed in Dada Is Dead/Long Live Dada at the KC Fringe Festival in 2012.
How and when did you get into writing for the theater, and what projects have you been involved in?
I started writing when I was at Ball State. I was involved with writing the musical adaptation of The Circus in Winter, a novel, during the final semester of my undergraduate studies.
With whom did you collaborate and what has your role been on this project?
Initially, I was a member of the writing team. I contributed to writing the book, or the scene work, of the musical. I peppered in some lyrics, too, but I was also used as a performer to present the piece at the conclusion of the project. I collaborated with 14 other writers at Ball State under the direction of Beth Turcotte and the Virginia Ball Institute for Creative Inquiry. We collaborated with the novelist, Cathy Day, as well, who has since become a great friend.