Mount Royal graduate hits the stage

By Ryan Pike

Judging by the number of students enrolled in philosophy or medieval history, a lot of young people go to university or college with absolutely no idea what they’re going to do with their lives. A lucky few come into post-secondary with even a vague notion of their life goals and sometimes even they can lose their way.

Actor Jon Johnson is one of the rare breed that went to college with an interest and actually graduated with a degree in that field. Better yet, Johnson is already employed, currently completing a role on stage in Alberta Theatre Projects’ Rabbit Hole. Johnson’s interest in acting took root at a young age, but he didn’t seriously consider turning it into a career until later on.

“I was always in drama class,” says Johnson. “[But] in grade seven it’s hard to say how seriously you consider it as a career. Once high school came around—I guess grade 11 or 12—I seriously got into theatre. From there, it just seemed like the only logical thing to do, as weird as it may seem to find following acting as a career as logical.”

To help him pursue his dream, Johnson enrolled in Mount Royal College’s Theatre Arts program. He credits the program with preparing him for the rigors of being a actor.

“It’s a really good program,” says Johnson. “In your first year you do about two or three productions and in your second year usually about two or three productions as well. It’s great because they get a lot of directors and actors from the Calgary professional community to come in, so you get a lot of experience working with [them].”

Johnson explains that Mount Royal’s program immerses the student-actor in an atmosphere not wholly dissimilar from a full-fledged theatre production.

“It’s a great program in terms of emerging into the Calgary scene,” says Johnson. “I was really impressed with how professional rehearsals were at Mount Royal compared to the way they were in the real world. They’re very similar and I think they did a good job at Mount Royal with putting on productions just in terms of mimicking the real thing.”

The jump from the theoretical scholastic community to the real world is often daunting for a graduating student. Johnson notes the transition was nerve-wracking, but that his schooling prepared him for it.

“Obviously it was pretty intimidating at first just because you’re working with these incredibly seasoned and brilliant actors,” says Johnson. “It was a big jump, but at the same time, they were so welcoming at ATP. Once you got over the initial jump of ‘oh my God, I’m going to be working professionally with professional actors,’ it was fine. Rehearsals were great, everybody was really supportive. I think the biggest thing to get over is the fear of going off into the real world and pursuing something like acting and doing it professionally.”

Even though he has yet to secure another stage role for this season, Johnson feels the experience he gained from his first production will definitely be something to build off of in years to come. He’s looking forward to taking some time off to relax.

“A lot of this business depends on luck in terms of if that role is out there for you in that season,” says Johnson. “As of now, I’m not too sure. It might just be Rabbit Hole for this season, but to have one professional show under my belt right out of school is a pretty big accomplishment. If Rabbit Hole is the only show I do this year, I won’t be overly disappointed whatsoever.”

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