Setting the stage for the STAGE
It took a while, but the influence of family and friends put Canby native Jacob Brown right where he eventually wanted to be – the stage.
Brown, a 2008 Canby High School graduate, recently finished up a summer run with the Sundance Theatre Company, as the lead in a production of "Oklahoma." Playing Curly, and carrying a classic production like "Oklahoma," may have seemed improbable 10 years ago, but talking to Brown gives you the sense that everything since then led to something special this summer.
The theatre company is part of the umbrella organization that sponsors the Sundance Film Festival each year. Created and run by Robert Redford, Sundance Theatre Company is located just south of Salt Lake City, Utah.
The path there, and now to Boston, has been an interesting one for Brown.
"When I was at Canby High, I was trying a bunch of things," he said. "I did sports, learned languages, some choir and band. That was the nice thing about growing up in Canby, you can do a lot of things."
Additionally, Brown said that he comes from a musical family and that while he appeared in only one production at CHS, the sights, sounds and songs of performing where always around him. As it turns out, that influence would strengthen as time rolled on.
Brown did a year at Brigham Young University before serving a two-year mission in Brazil.
"That was a pretty formative for me to get myself figured out," he said of his time as a missionary.
And while that process continued, he met a woman that would ultimately become his wife – Kyla. And the adventure would truly began.
"We auditioned for a group called Young Ambassadors, who do entertainment with a service element, and I began a master's program," said Brown, who ultimately got a psychology degree. He will continue his education through a management doctoral program at Boston College in the fall, another twist in a journey that led him to the stage.
A connection to his wife's BYU dancing past came out of nowhere with an opportunity he couldn't pass up.
"Kyla's old dance coach at BYU reached out to me through her to ask if I'd audition for the role of Curly," Brown explained. "I read for it and sang for it and the part is right in my vocal register. It was kind of a happy circumstance. They offered me the role and offered Kyla a role as dance captain.
"Ironically, when it rains, it pours," he added. "We were given this opportunity with Sundance and then another theater in Jackson Hole, Wyo., offered us parts as well. We went from nothing to having too many options."
Ultimately, the chance to play a lead in a legendary musical like "Oklahoma," with a theater group like Sundance, was too much to pass up. And with that, the chance to put the experiences of his past to good use.
"I realized that as I was getting older that as much as I loved sports, my passion for it wasn't really there," he explained. "I realized when I got to BYU that the seeds (of performing) had been planted early on.
"Being a lead is interesting," he added. "This was Rodgers and Hammerstein's first collaboration and there's a definite focus on the leads. I was nervous but I decided to put in the work and do the very best I could. I was with seasoned actors and they were very supportive through the whole process."
Brown began working on the songs and script before official rehearsals began and had the chance to explore the character of Curly with more depth.
"Who is he and what is he motivated by?" he said. "There is this role and it can be played a lot of different ways."
The production ran July 19 to Aug. 11 and the couple then headed to Boston shortly after.
He's hoping to combine his school work and a study a colleague is doing with his acting once he and Kyla are settled in Boston. The chance to continue on stage, now fully flowered, almost certainly will call again.
"I think the first two years in Boston we'll probably just get our sea legs under us, but after that we'll probably look for shows and see if Boston is receptive," he said. "As I look back, I see that this has always been something I've liked and now I get to do it."
He and Kyla have been married just over three years and he said his grandmother and aunt Laura still live in Canby.