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Longtime JRT actress takes on biggest role yet

When Jennifer Schmidt stepped through the doors of the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre last week as JRT’s new artistic director, she felt like she was coming home.
“We’ve always loved Jonesborough,” said Schmidt, who took up the theater’s artistic reins Jan. 4. “And we’ve been involved with the JRT for a long time. This really feels right.”
Along with the comfort comes a new sense of excitement.
JRT has already reached amazing degrees of performance and professionalism for a small-town theater, Schmidt said.
Now, she is eager to play her part not only in helping the theater maintain its already high standards, but also in helping it reach new heights.
“We have an amazing collection of talent already,” Schmidt said. “And I have never seen such a wonderful group of people committed to the theater, people who want to support it and see it grow to the next level.”
Yet 2013 will not just be a matter of growing, she said.
“We also want to give back.”
Part of that giving back will, of course, involve continuing to offer area residents and visitors the opportunity to see quality shows in a special environment — and Schmidt anticipates her first couple of weeks to be immersed in finishing, paint brush in hand, ongoing improvements for JRT’s lobby to coincide with improvements to the theater’s interior, as well as going over the painstaking details necessary to create a crowd-pleasing season for 2013-2014.
The latter is not an easy job, Schmidt admitted.
“You have to be very careful in the selection of the new season,” she said. “You have to take so many things in consideration — demographics. audience appeal, appropriate dates, securing the best directors, securing the rights to the plays.
“Making sure that you have a great season really comes down to meeting the needs of your community.”
Schmidt anticipates announcing the 2013-2014 line-up within the next few weeks, and is confident residents will be pleased with the new choices.
In the meantime, there is the current season to continue to produce.
Schmidt will direct “A Grand Night for Singing,” JRT’s next production. She plans to begin a big publicity push starting with that production.
“Publicity is huge,” she said.
One of the ways Schmidt would like to increase publicity this year, as well as JRT’s ability to give back to its community, is to create a JRT performing troupe.
“This troupe would be ready at all times to perform, at town functions or events, in schools or on Main Street,” she said. “The town of Jonesborough has really gotten behind the theater. I want us to be able to give back to the town.”
Schmidt would also like to see JRT working regularly with the Jonesborough Senior Center to provide entertainment or even possibly classes geared to older adults.
“I am very, very interested in adult classes. They are definitely on my list of things to investigate,” she said. “We currently do not offer classes for adults, and we have the talent. We have the teachers.”
Veterans, too, will not be forgotten in the upcoming months of the JRT. It’s not surprising, perhaps, as Schmidt is already the one responsible for Jonesborough’s popular “USO Show.”
“I have a passion for supporting our veterans in any way that we can,” she said. “We’re already looking into taking performers to the VA in Johnson City.”
Schmidt also has dreams of more classes for the young, and scholarships for those who may not be able to afford such classes.
For this woman who starts each day with prayer and a cup of coffee, anything is possible — especially, she said, with all the community support the JRT has always received.
“I feel like the sky’s the limit,” Schmidt said. “Wonderful things are coming around the corner for JRT.”
For more information about the JRT or its upcoming season, visit or call 791-4440.