Studio Visit: Jack Reeder
Studio Visit is a Q&A with a local artist. Here, Melissa Merli talks with actor and musician Jack Reeder, 16, of Champaign.
Q: What character are you playing in the all-state production of "Grapes of Wrath" at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival?
A: I play Jim Casy, the preacher.
Q: How did you land the role?
A: I auditioned in late June at Glenbard East High School in Lombard. You perform a monologue and a little improv, then callbacks later.
Q: Seems like most of the students in the all-state shows are from the suburbs.
A: Yes, it's a bunch of kids from the 'burbs this year, and a couple from Rockford and the Quad Cities. The farthest-away guy is from Benton.
Q: Is this your first time in the all-state show?
A: Yes, it is. It's awesome. It's pretty great to work with other students who are as passionate about theater as I am. It's great to get to know them, and I think "Grapes of Wrath" is a wonderful and powerful piece to perform as well.
Q: Is it a musical?
A: No, it's not. We have music in it. John Steinbeck wrote songs for the book, and they later were adapted into the play. In recent years, the all-state shows have been musicals, but in the past few years it's kind of alternated.
Q: Are you still leading and conducting the St. Pat's Youth Orchestra?
A: Yes, I am. It's been an absolute joy for me to work with these students and to make good, fun music. Our first season has just ended, so we're looking to start our second in the spring.
Q: Are you a junior or senior at Centennial High School?
Q: Have you been in a lot of theater there?
A: Yes, I have. My freshman year I was Bert Cates in "Inherit the Wind," and I was Benjamin, the youngest brother, in "Joseph." I was Ursula in "The Little Mermaid." In the fall play, "The Rainmaker," I was Noah Curry. I was in "Hairspray" this spring as Corny Collins.
Q: Are you still working with the student chorus at Centennial?
A: Yes, I'm the student conductor of Expressions. That too is a lot of fun — getting to work with Mrs. (Marian) Wyatt and my peers.
Q: Have you done a lot of community theater as well?
A: I used to do Urbana Park District stuff. I've never been in a Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company show.
Q: Do you play any musical instruments?
A: I primarily sing, but I also play the bagpipes. I originally started taking lessons in Springfield with the St. Andrew Society. The travel every week became a bit too much, so I found a group here called the Mugdock. They're named after a castle in Scotland, and the group was started by the great Jim Lynch. Sadly, I just don't have time for it anymore.
I played French horn and trumpet in middle school, but after middle school, the voice took over. I also can fake it on the piano.
Q: Don't you take voice lessons, too?
A: I do. I'm currently studying with (University of Illinois voice Professor) Ricardo Herrera and with Stephen Larson at Central High. I'm kind of a bari-tenor, or tenor 2.
Q: What are your goals in life?
A: I want to be happy, before anything else, and I know I want to love what I do. Right now I want to go to college. Some days I want to be a conductor, and other days I want to be an actor. Something with the arts, I know.
Q: Where does your interest in the arts come from?
A: My mother (Mardia Bishop) is a theater educator/director, and she's also a church organist and pianist, so it's always been on my mind. My start in theater came when I was in fifth grade at Holy Cross and I was the Wiz in "Wizard of Oz." It was just a shock to see all these people watching me. It was a thrill. The adrenaline was there the very first time.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Reeder will perform as part of the Illinois High School Theatre Festival from Thursday through Saturday at Illinois State University in Normal. Performances are not open to the public.