By LISA WHALEY
Actors, actresses, backstage crew members, co-workers, friends and neighbors all gathered Friday night at Jonesborough Repertory Theatre’s Stage Door to celebrate the anniversary of Artistic Director Jennifer Ross’ five years with the company.
“Look what she has done with this community and the pride she has instilled in the arts here,” said Jules Corriere, outreach programing director for the McKinney Center, who has worked with Ross on several past projects. “She is putting on brilliant shows, at the same time she’s bringing these shows to our youth and at the same time she is bringing these shows to our seniors.”
The event — an open house set as a drop-in reception for Ross’ many friends and fans — featured candlelight, tasty appetizers and lilting music. But the most common accessory was the constant praise for the guest of honor.
“She is a visionary,” said Pam Johnson, JRT’s publicity coordinator and a long-time member of the company. “She has expanded this theater to become more than I ever thought it could be.”
Ross took over the reins as artistic director with the JRT on Jan. 14, 2013, with big plans and great excitement. “We have an amazing collection of talent already,” Ross said at the time. “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.”
But, she said, “We also want to give back.”
According to Town Administrator Bob Browning, Ross has certainly done that. Since she took over direction of the JRT, he said, such dreams as the JRT players, as well as expanded classes and opportunities have become a solid reality with the company.
“Part of it is her character and the fact that she is so community and people driven,” Browning said. “The way she interacts with cast members, and the community as a whole (makes such a difference.) She is deeply concerned about the people, and you feel like you are part of a family. That not only draws people, it keeps people.”