[Image description: The Projects with Jason logo with a hand-drawn pumpkin around it. The website adress: www.projectswithjason.com. Following that is, "October 2020 Newsletter, Welcome" on a background of brush strokes. Below the text is a photo of J. Jason Daunter, the Founder and Artistic Director of Projects with Jason. He is wearing a black button up shirt, sitting on a staircase next to a brick wall. Jason has dark brown hair and blue eyes. End image description.]

Founder and Artistic Director J. Jason Daunter welcomes you all to the October Newsletter and shares his thoughts on theatrical superstitions.



Behind the Mask
By Kimberly B. Staples,
Projects with Jason Sustainer Member

“Behind the mask there is a face, and behind that a story.” Marty Rubin

Theatre people have used masks for literally thousands of years. Masks are an important part of many world cultures. They continue to be a part of stylized, sophisticated theatrical traditions. And now they are part of our culture in a very different way.

Face-to-face teaching in 2020 is a surreal experience, my friends. Learning the names of new students has become an exercise of learning who has what color eyes, not who has dimples, or a widespread grin, remembering who wears what color masks. And while the masks of Greek theatre were able to convey emotion to the audience, today’s masks offer no such communication.

It has become increasingly difficult in the face-to-face classroom to tell if what is being taught is actually being understood. Today’s masks cover so much of the face. I find that I am mostly able to read the body language of students I’ve taught before. I know them; I know how they move; I know their idiosyncratic habits: the pulling of hoodie sleeves when a student is uncertain, the lift of the chin when a student knows the answer without a doubt.

I find myself engaging with students more in the hallway where idle chit-chat helps me get to know the new students, or reassuring the returning student who isn’t comfortable with this bizarre situation. You see, in the classroom, we don’t get physically close enough for chit-chat, or at least conversation that feels real. There seems to be a reluctance for students wearing masks to speak much at all. I thought at first that it must be the newness of being back in school after the longest, strangest break in history. Well, folks, it’s week seven for us, and it’s awfully quiet. I thought they would warm up. It’s going to be a long Fall at this rate.

So how to combat this wild circumstance? I find myself using students’ names more frequently, asking questions more often, and asking for students to respond with even a thumb’s up. I think it’s vital to keep connecting, no matter how tenuously those connections start. Even though I can’t see those faces, I know they are there, waiting to be revealed in some space other than our theatre. And I know for sure that there is a story. And that’s worth everything.


[Image Description: Photo of Kimberly Staples. She is smiling wide with her teeth showing, standing outside in the sunlight. She is wearing a blue patterned shirt and a blue necklace. She has bright red lipstick on, with black hair and dark eyes. End image description]
Kimberly B. Staples, in her 38th year as an educator, is the theatre director at Buford High School in Buford, GA. She has her Master’s in Directing from Roosevelt University in Chicago. She serves on the GA Thespians Chapter Board and is a member of the GA Thespians Hall of Fame. Never happier than when surrounded by fabric and PAR cans, she is always eager to embark on a new project!




Christine Riley introduces the Projects with Jason exclusive AUDITIONING series.

Auditioning: First Steps
By Christine Riley,
Projects with Jason Artist-in-Residence
Hello everyone! I am Christine Riley, a music director and vocal coach in NYC, and an Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts at Marymount Manhattan College. I am thrilled to once again be collaborating with Projects with Jason, and look forward to sharing and working with all of you over the next year (and beyond)!
Over the course of the next few months, I will take you through a number of important aspects of all types of auditions, as well as choosing song material (whether it is for class or an audition setting). Please remember that these are my thoughts and advice that come from my perspective.
Auditions are subjective so it is important to remember that the best audition you can have is one where you feel good about your work, regardless of the outcome. This starts with preparation! YOU have control over your preparation, so do your homework and practice. The better prepared you are, the more successful your audition will be (see above: successful = you feel good about your work).
Audition preparation always starts by reading the audition breakdown carefully. What is the audition for (college, or agent, or school show, or professional show)? Where is the audition (your town, city far away, or digital)? What material are they asking for (song style and length, monologue)? If the audition is in person, will there be a pianist or are you required to bring a track? Are there safety protocols in place? If the audition is digital, do they want a self-tape or a “live” digital audition over Zoom? These may seem like obvious questions, but I have seen more than one person struggle through an audition because they did not fully read the breakdown and PREPARE.
Once you have the answers to the questions above, more questions should arise, such as:
  • College- Is there a prescreen? When is the application due? When do I sign-up for an audition date?
  • Agent- How many people am I auditioning for? Will there be an interview? Do I need to bring my entire audition book?
  • School Show- What role am I most interested in? Is there a dance call? Are there sides to prepare ahead of time? When are callbacks?
  • Professional Show- All of the questions for a school show as well as: Will this conflict with school? Do I have parental permission?
  • Do I need to make travel preparations?
  • Who will go with me?
  • If digital, do I have the equipment I need to make a high quality audition video?
  • How do I choose the appropriate material?
  • How do I cut the material?
  • How do I prepare the material?
  • How do I prepare to work with a pianist I don’t know?
  • How do I get a track made?
  • How do I set up zoom or create a video for a successful audition?
  • How do I practice so that I feel prepared to go in and have an amazing audition experience?

We will walk through these questions and discuss different ways to prepare to give you confidence to walk into any audition. Inevitably, you will encounter situations that are out of your control, but if you have prepared for the aspects of the audition that ARE in your control, you will be able to navigate the unexpected with professionalism and trust in your abilities.

So – your homework (yes homework – this is a tough business and you ALWAYS have homework): Research at least three auditions that you have coming up and answer all of the questions that I mentioned in this article the best you can.  If you don’t have any auditions coming up, take a look at Backstage.com  or Playbill.com and find auditions that you could hypothetically attend. You do not have to actually go to the auditions, but preparing for them is a huge part of the work! Once you have specific auditions in mind, and have answered the questions above, we will delve deeper into each area and discuss how to best approach every audition you encounter. Happy Homework!!!


[Image Description: Photo of Christine Riley. She is smiling at the camera. Her head is tilted up to look at the camera. She has dark red hair, and dark eyes. She is wearing a red shirt. End image description.]ABOUT CHRISTINE RILEY
Christine Riley is a Music Director, Vocal Coach, and Arranger currently residing in NYC. As a music director, she has worked Off-Broadway, on national tours, and regionally in the US. She is currently an Assistant Professor at Marymount Manhattan College, where she serves as the instructor for Fundamentals of Musical Theatre, Musical Theatre Song Portfolio, Professional Preparation: Musical Theatre, Music Director for many productions, the faculty recruiter for Musical Theatre, and the program director for the Musical Theatre Pre-College program. In addition, she is a Music Director for Camp Broadway (performances at Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, and Rocktopia), and maintains a private vocal coaching studio in New York City. Ms. Riley is the author of Music Fundamentals for Musical Theatre (Bloomsbury Press 2020) and received her Bachelor of Music from Ithaca College, and a Master of Music from Arizona State University.



EdTA’s Virtual Annual Conference
By: Lily Buehler,
Projects with Jason Marketing & Social Media Assistant
The Projects with Jason team was honored to be part of the Education Theatre Association’s virtual conference on September 12th. The conference invited Founder and Artistic Director J. Jason Daunter,  Executive Producer Matt Conover, Production Education Team Members Gai Jones, Jeff Hall, and Krista Carson Elhai, and Technical Supervisor Kyle D. Cole to share the history and the mission of PwJ. They also promoted the more recent virtual opportunities that PwJ has provided to theatre students across the country who have no alternative during this uncertain time. This included welcoming some guest educators to tell their own stories about how participating in PwJ events has impacted their students and programs in this pivotal time for theatre education. The conference highlighted PwJ’s educational and interactive resources such as the free content, which is always available on the Projects with Jason website (www.projectswithjason.com) and YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/projectswithjason), and additional tools offering educational opportunities beyond viewing videos. The conference welcomed PwJ Artists-in-Residence Jeff Daniels and Carey Crim. Daniels told his story of finding theatre, which resonated with viewers who responded live in the comments. Crim shared her story behind the creation of her script for the then-upcoming virtual reading of her play Distance Learning.

Distance Learning, A Short Play
By: Lily Buehler,
Projects with Jason Marketing & Social Media Assistant
September 26th saw a Saturday evening at the theatre… over Zoom of course. Projects with Jason hosted a virtual reading of Carey Crim’s new short play, Distance Learning. For this script, the Brady Bunch boxes setup is not a hindrance, but rather vital to the plot. With screen conversations ranging from classes over Zoom to one-on-one FaceTime calls, the script follows the story of a high school English class struggling with the obstacles of a life suddenly gone virtual, back in March of 2020. The students deal with a number of issues bigger than themselves, namely the coronavirus pandemic, the Black Lives Matter protests, and the current political climate. In addition, the story highlights the personal struggles of the students, including relationships, home life, even college scholarships at stake. Educators from across the country were invited to view the reading, especially those interested in producing their own live performance of Distance Learning.
[Image Description: logo of the play, Distance Learning. End Description]
For more information about how to produce Distance Learning, please contact info@projectswithjason.com.



Lesley McKinnell,
Projects with Jason Artist-in-Residence
By Vanessa Martinez, 
Projects with Jason Social Media Manager
[Image Description: Photo of Lesley McKinnell. She is facing left, tilting her head to the right to look at the camera. She is smiling, wearing a white v-neck shirt and pink blazer. She has dark brown hair and green eyes. End image description.]Lesley McKinnell is an actor/singer originally from the OC, California. She was featured in last month’s newsletter, performing a mash-up of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and Happy Days Are Here Again, accompanied by PwJ Musical Supervisor Jason Yarcho. She’s performed in shows at Carnegie Hall with her children’s chorus, the national tours of Wicked and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, in Guam with the USO Show Troupe, and at other such exotic places as Maine (Young Frankenstein– Elizabeth, Ogunquit and Gateway Playhouses), and North Carolina (Guys & Dolls – Adelaide, FlatRock Playhouse), to name a few. Before whatever-we-want-to-call-it happened to us all this year, Lesley was performing regularly as Elsa in Frozen: Live at the Hyperion, as well as in parody musicals at LA’s now closed Rockwell Table & Stage.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in the theatre arts?
Honestly, I don’t think I really knew until I was claiming myself a musical theatre major at Cal State Fullerton (lol).

What is your dream role/job?
My dream role was Fanny in Funny Girl. And my dream job right now would be anything (lol).

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
Performing as Glinda on tour in my home town with 200 people I knew in the audience. Oh, and finally not caring what people in my home town thought of me if I moved back to my home town.

What career advice would you give your younger self?
Nothing will go the way you envision/want/foresee/wish/dream. And that is just fine.

When will you know you’ve “made it”?
When you let go of thinking that “making it” is even important at all.

What’s your favorite self-care activity?
Taking time to spend with God. I neglect and avoid it a lot (ha), but when I finally settle in to do so, I know there is a plan in place and that gives me all the self-care I could need.

What is one thing that can instantly brighten your day?
A very specific, certain kind of song that speaks to me in the moment- preferably whilst driving when I can sing my guts out in private (hehe).

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I’ve been very lucky and have no reasonable reason to complain, but… babysitting in NY (hahaha).

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Do we have time to name them all?

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?
THIS IS GETTING SO PERSONAL NOW. Late night cheese. (Oh and late night wine? Lol.)

What’s the phone app you use most?
Youtube (lol).

Current obsession?
Currently Beethoven’s 7th Symphony Mov 2 and Aaron Copeland’s Rodeo. And Coldplay’s Everyday Life. Just songs, I guess (haha).

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
So many things, oh my gosh, I can’t think of anything at the moment, of course (ha). But, I’d say moving to New York was pretty scary.

What makes you feel at peace?

If you were a super hero, what would your power be?
Cleaning the world (lol).

Tell us one thing that’s on your bucket list.
Going to Paris.

Favorite ice cream flavor?
Chocolate. Malted. Crunch. And anything Ben & Jerry’s

You’re looking for a midnight snack… what are you reaching for? Or ordering?

What’s the most inspiring thing anyone has ever said to you?
A lot of people have said so many inspiring things to me. It’s difficult to choose. One that sticks out through the years is when seeing Chaz Palmenteri in A Bronx Tale  when I first joined the national tour of Wicked. He told us what his father used to tell him,

“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.”
Chaz had the quote on his business cards- of which I still have one. Don’t waste your talent. Use it. For good, preferably.



With a Little Bit of Help From My Friends…
By Krista Carson Elhai,
Projects with Jason Production Education Team
I could not imagine my life as a theatre educator without my theatre friends. Every good idea I’ve ever had, or lesson I’ve taught, has been shared, inspired, or influenced by someone in my life. As a result, I find myself a hoarder of lessons, units, and theatrical resources. I’m sure there will be a reality show on this subject soon (have you seen what gets a reality show these days?), but in the meantime here are a few of my new favorites:

All Things Shakespeare:

Arts & Cultures Resources:

  • All Arts– including streaming, podcasts, interviews in Art, Dance, Film, Theatre.

Classes, Lectures, Webinars in the Arts:

Classroom Resources:

General Theatre Resources:

Musical Theatre links & books:

Socio Emotional Learning:

Technical Theatre Resources:

Virtual Theatre resources:
  • Theaterish– Dozens & dozens of resources for Virtual Theatre. Classroom ideas by grade/focus area.




Nina West’s music video for her hit song, “Lisa Frankenstein.”
Nina West is a Projects with Jason Artist-in-Residence.

[Image Description: Photo of Lesley McKinnell. She is facing left, tilting her head to the right to look at the camera. She is smiling, wearing a white v-neck shirt and pink blazer. She has dark brown hair and green eyes. End image description.]
“Nina West, the drag persona of Andrew Levitt, has grown into a legendary figure, creating a platform to lift up and support LGBTQ organizations. He’s done thousands of shows, participates in hundreds of appearances each year, and has given generously in time, talent, and treasure to the community. The charity performance he does at the end of each big show averages about $1,500—an incredible testament to his passion, and the generosity of his audience.”



[Image Description: photo of Projects with Jason Team Member/Host of Technical Supervisor Kyle D. Cole, author of the article entitled, "Finding My Light." Kyle is posed in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland. He is smiling with his teeth showing. He has brown hair and hazel eyes. His hair is spiked up. He is wearing a blue button-down shirt with his Disneyland name tag above the left breast pocket. End image description.]
Photo of: Kyle D. Cole

Art Finds A Way
By Kyle D. Cole
Projects with Jason Technical Supervisor

My very first interaction with the stage was in 4th grade. One of my favorite elementary school teachers also ran the elementary drama program at my school. That teacher thought I was a shoe-in for performance, most likely because of my constant screwing around and broad imagination. I hadn’t tried performing until 7th grade because my family didn’t have a lot of money or time. I had to pick an elective that year, and, remembering that interaction with my 4th grade teacher, I decided that Drama 1 was my destiny. As it would turn out, despite my personality and imagination, I was like Jimmy Fallon on SNL- I couldn’t keep a straight face when something funny was in the script, and I would biff my lines constantly. I was positively terrible as a performer, so for final credit that semester I decided to be a stagehand for the Fall play. I was hooked. It was electric being involved in the backside of a production. The chance to place props in a blackout, mic up performers, set up the decking and set, the late nights and long days… everything about it was imperfectly perfect.

That same Fall, I noticed a worship leader at my church youth group sitting on a stool playing his guitar. He was singing and trying (poorly) to balance out his sound at the audio console sitting next to him. Apparently, my 12-year-old brain thought this was a crime. I offered to help move the knobs and faders around so he could keep playing and singing without having to stop to reach over and make adjustments. From there, I became fascinated with achieving a good sound balance- experimenting with reverb and different EQ’s. I started finding ways to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible. I’d setup the entire audio system just to play with it- to think something up and make something happen. I hoarded all the manuals for the gear (no internet at the time, remember) to read them again and again. The youth pastor took notice of all this effort and connected me with a local college professor so I could learn more. Throughout my 2 years of Jr. High, I ran sound every Sunday morning and every Wednesday night. I volunteered for every event that needed sound: concert band, pep rallies, the college ministry, literally anything.

During my freshman year of high school, I was hired (at age 15) to mix audio at a large church for their 2,000 in-person and 50,000 on-radio services. Again, I did sound for everything I could possibly find and continued on that way until the end of high school in 2003. While there, my drama department had little-to-no development of technical theatre and, frankly, my drama teacher seemed a lot more interested in participating with student drama than in developing anything other than what drew attention to her and the program. It always seemed that she found technical theatre to be boring and not flashy. She played into the tropes that theatre techs are some slightly more presentable version of The Phantom- they should be unseen and unheard from, destined to support the show with no acknowledgement, development, and little thanks. In spite of my drama teacher’s lack of support and investment, I was determined to learn everything I could. I vowed that if I ever “made it,” I’d spend time making sure this didn’t happen to future students at my high school.
While I was working at my church in my teen years, I spent nearly every Friday night at Disneyland with my friends. As a staple of Southern California living, I was able to go after school until closing almost every week- my friends and I had our routines, and things we’d always do while there. One of them was wandering through Tomorrowland Terrace, which often had a live band with a person mixing the sound. I must’ve talked to dozens of what would later become co-workers of mine. I constantly asked what department, what experience I needed to have, and when they were hiring. It was a dream to work at Disneyland and mix the live bands and shows. The Fall after my Senior year, I got an opportunity to apply. After what I thought was a shaky interview, I got hired on my 19th birthday in October of 2003.
I’ve worked at Disney ever since and (again) have done everything I possibly could. Not just sound either- lighting, moving scenery, carpentry (spoiler alert: I’m terrible at that). I’d mop stages, wear silly costumes to set props, drive a 1941 Mercury “Woody’s” with bands on the back, wade through Olympic swimming pools driving yellow submarines…literally everything and anything.
As I’m nearing the end of my 17th year at Disney, I reflect not only on the amazing opportunities I’ve had with the company, but also the connections it made for me in the industry that have allowed me to work with Blizzard Entertainment on the Overwatch League, build The Tonight Show soundstage (for the brief few months Conan O’Brien had it), do a few circuits of the international auto shows around the country, and to work with countless music acts, artists, Broadway stars, directors, and of course stage managers, costumers, dressers, lighting designers…the whole lot! These people have become close friends and family to me over the years and I do everything I can for and with them and they for me and my family.
Throughout my career at Disney, I’ve been blessed to be involved with the California Thespians in developing the next generations of theatre technicians, just as I hoped. There’s really nothing more energetic and electric than hundreds of theatre kids coming together to present art in motion on stage. I’ve been blessed to have been involved in the early parts of their careers. Several of the audio students have returned over the years and (still) volunteer to help other students on their journeys. It’s an amazing pay-off for over a decade of time volunteering with the California chapter of Thespians. That said, in 2015, a good friend of mine that I volunteer with at the California Festivals suggested that I connect with some guy named Jason, who volunteered at the International Thespian Festival to help students “guerilla theatre” an opening production to kick off the weekend. This is how I found myself in Lincoln, Nebraska on my 3rd ever Father’s Day. The energy of thousands of theatre kids and educators in the middle of America, singing the songs of Alan Menken to two audiences, working with students mixing sound, doing the lighting, and stage managing, was astonishing.
Ever since then, whenever my phone buzzes and it’s Jason, he usually sounds like an echo of Mickey Rooney with a cheery, but determined “let’s put on a show.” Jason has this knack of connecting the best-of-the-best professional artists with endearing and motivated talent in high schools and colleges. Projects with Jason was born out of this talent of his. The production is no less electric than the first time I encountered high schoolers belting emotional stories at my first ever CA Thespian Festival back in 2006. If anything, it’s more exciting because the stakes are higher than ever before.

The world is more torn than ever. People are tired and annoyed. They need an escape. There is no better time for our students (all of us, really) to raise our voices, sing our songs, tell our stories, call our cues, slide the faders, dress the performers, press Go and raise the curtain to reveal to those hurt and broken that it’s all going to be ok. The dreamers are still here, albeit from our homes, and we have a story for you…the story of how we always overcome, we always persist, we do prevail. Art wins every time; we just have to walk through the darkness, find our mark, take a breath, open our mouths, and put on a show.



Jamie Brown
John & Jane Conover
Nick Robinson
Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School, Bethlehem, PA, Educator Amanda Pascale
Donnie Bryan
Debby Gibbs
Amanda Pascale

Beverly Hills High School, Beverly Hills, CA, Educator Karen Chandler

Kyle D & Kimberly Cole
J. Jason Daunter
Philip & Krista Elhai
Jack Lane & Michael Hamilton
Jim & Merry Mosbacher
Nicole Pedroche
Alma Middle School, Alma, AR, Educator Marti Jo Salisbury
Ashland High School, Ashland, OR, Educator Betsy Bishop
Bloomfield Hills High School, Bloomfield, MI, Educator Mary Bogrette
Buford High School, Buford, GA, Educator Kimberly Staples 
Charter Oak High School, Covina, CA, Educator Nicole Pedroche
Claremont High School, Claremont, CA, Educator Krista Carson Elhai
Dublin Scioto High School, Dublin, OH, Educator Pat Santanello
Liberty High School, Henderson, NV, Educator Sharon Chadwick
Lincoln High School, Portland, OR, Educator Jim Peerenboom
Munster High School, Munster, IN, Educator Ray Palasz
North Kansas City High School, Kansas City, MO, Educator Randy Jackson
Royal Oak Middle School, Covina, CA, Educator Nicole Pedroche

San Juan Hills High School, San Juan Capistrano, CA, Educator Cambria Graff



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[Image Description: List of Projects with Jason team members and their titles. Team Members: J. Jason Daunter- Founder, Artistic Director. Lily Buehler- Marketing and Social Media Assistant, Kimberly Cole- Production Manager. Kyle D. Cole- Technical Supervisor. John Conover- Legal Consultant. Matt Conover- Executive Producer. Will Conover- Social Media Twitter. Krista Carson Elhai- Production Education Team. Dylan Elhai- Graphic Designer. Cambria Graff- Production Education Team. Jeff Hall- Production Education Team, Tech Table Producer. Gai Laing Jones- Production Education Team. Travis Kelley- Video & Digital Content Manager. Vanessa Martinez- Social Media Manager, Facebook, Instagram. KC Wilkerson- Tech Table Host. Jason Yarcho- Musical Supervisor, Composer, Arranger. Student Team Members: Caroline Conover- Digital Content Stage Manager. Louie Gallagher- Virtual Cabaret Host, Social Media- TikTok. Bellise Sacchetto- Virtual Cabaret, Artist in Conversation, and Tech Table Original Graphic Designer. Alumni: Greg Mauro, Nate Reid, Austin Sarti. At the bottom reads, "Until Next Time..." and the Projects with Jason logo with a hand-drawn pumpkin around it and website address of www.projectswithjason.com. End image description.]


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