Jonathan Young has been performing in theater since the age of 7 when he played the character of Maurice in “Beauty and the Beast.” Now his talents are winning him scholarships and parts in professional productions.
Jonathan is a senior at Williamsville North High School, where last weekend he played the role of Captain Hook in the school’s production of “Peter Pan.”
He recently performed in the ensemble of a local professional production of “Rent” at MusicalFare Theatre. He was one of 14 cast members. However, he does not want to look back. Instead, he wants to look forward and promote his future plays along with his fellow actors and actresses. For someone who literally takes center stage, he said he doesn’t want to be the center of attention.
“There are people who save lives,” said Jonathan. “I’m just singing and dancing.”
He and the rest of the cast, crew and pit orchestra at his school had worked on the school musical since January. He said he had less time to prepare for “Rent,” but there were similarities in the process.
“It’s always exciting and nerve-racking,” said Jonathan, referring to the process of preparing for a play. “I always feel prepared, [but] the gauge is a week before [opening night].” Although some people may feel more nervous than others, Jonathan said that when it comes to show time, as actors “we do what we do best.”
He has a wide array of talents, but whatever the role, he takes care to get into the character.
“I’m thinking about what the character wants [and] their goals,” he said.
Upon inquiring how Johnathan determines these, specifically for “Peter Pan,” Jonathan said he was obsessed with the Mary Martin version of the musical, which he used to gain insights.
“It’s fun,” said Young. “It’s a story everyone knows. It’s ridiculous, [but it’s a] really good time. There’s always something happening [on stage].”
One difference between “Rent” and “Peter Pan” that Jonathan did note, was the preparation time versus the performance time. “Rent was 36 performances between January 23 and March 3, whereas “Peter Pan” is five shows over the course of one weekend.” Jonathan said he prefers the “Rent” style, where the actors spend more time performing than they do rehearsing. He said it allows him to better “savor the play.”
Jonathan comes from a family with a “musical theatrical” background, and got into it from an early age. He says he enjoys it more than anything else, and spends so much time on it, that he has little time for anything else (although he does enjoy reading).
Getting involved in theater was about getting his “foot in the door,” he said. People he knew from Williamsville North helped him get involved with Buffalo theater, and he eventually got an internship from a costume maker.
“I just like having fun and don’t take things too seriously,” Jonathan said.
He does, however, appear to take his acting seriously, and for him, the acting is all about interpretation. Jonathan says it’s important to him to have a unique interpretation for any play he does. For this reason, he doesn’t aspire to mimic any actor, as some might expect, but instead tries to be fully unique.
“The reason people will see a show is for the interpretation,” he said.
As for his future, he plans on going to Baldwin Wallace University near Cleveland to study music. He got some help paying for that when he won the ASO (Amherst Symphony Orchestra) Scholarship, which is available to students planning on majoring in music, and is given out after an audition open to instrumentalists and vocalists.
“Scholarships are always good,” he said.
Jonathan isn’t sure about his plans after college, but says he would like to work in theater for a living.
Although Jonathan repeatedly said he was “lucky” to have so many opportunities to perform in theater, anyone who watches him will see that it’s less about luck, and more about talent and hard work.
Justin Smith is a senior at Williamsville North High School.