A Lifelong Connection to Civic: An Interview with Jenna Pope


It’s a busy time for Jenna Pope, who is the summer coordinator for Civic’s school of theatre arts. Between organizing classes and preparing for the SRTI production in July, there’s a lot on her plate. She has enjoyed working with students in this capacity and found that being a teacher is just as fun as being a student.

“Theatre is their world,” she said, talking about her students at the school. “Sometimes we think it’s just an extracurricular or hobby for them, but it’s really a priority. I’ve heard kids say they need to get good grades so they can keep coming to the theatre!”

JENNA’s LIFELONG CONNECTION TO THE CIVIC

Pope’s own theatre career started at Civic when she was very young. Her first role was as a Lollipop Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz. When none of the other little girls wanted to play a boy or sing a solo, Pope took the part and the rest is history.

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“I always loved music and singing, but after I experienced being in a show, I loved all the lights and sound and being able to perform with grown-ups – it felt like a big responsibility!” said Pope.

Pope chose to start her training at Civic because it was the only theatre in town that offered classes and productions for children. Eventually, she started seeking out her teachers for private lessons who became her vocal and acting coaches for many years. After going to college for teaching, Pope returned to Civic which helped her get a job during the school year teaching core music and acting classes.

“Civic gave me an opportunity to teach on my own. They trusted me enough to give me my own classroom. Overall, this has always been a comfortable and supportive place for me to be in.”

TREASURED MEMORIES

The Civic has always been a place of many fond memories for Pope. She appeared in Ragtime at age 11 – her first “adult” show, where she wasn’t merely involved in a children’s chorus – and returned to see the production in Civic’s most recent season. Seeing another child playing Little Girl as she did brought back the feeling of being onstage as a girl.

Grand-Rapids-Civic-Theatre-Ragtime

“When I was little, I thought the stories of the different families were really cool,” said Pope, “but I didn’t quite understand what it was about. It was really great to come back and see it, especially with how relevant it is to what’s going on today.”

The memories continue on and off the stage for Pope. She met her now-fiancé while they were both teaching at the school and even got engaged here. This past season, she made her return to the Civic stage in Thoroughly Modern Millie as Dorothy Parker/Daphne.

“I hope the students come out of the school seeing that theatre has a place for everyone,” said Pope. “I have had some students realize they don’t like being onstage. We want students to feel supported, and if they don’t, that means there’s something wrong. We really want to stress the theatre as being a kind and welcoming space for kids.”

 

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