Giving back to the community – Jennifer Mance

by Jillian Keith, TNP, Marketing Coordinator

Born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Clue: On Stage and 42 Street star, Jennifer Mance, remembers watching a production of West Side Story and saying to herself, “I have got to be on that stage.”

The same pining coursed through Jennifer after she watched The Naples Players’ (TNP) production of Something Rotten! and now, after 11 years performing on cruise ships and 15 years working as an educator, Jennifer sees herself at TNP as her “third life” and one that she’s “incredibly grateful for.

“TNP means a lot to me. I feel very proud to be a part of TNP as an educator and a performer. It all goes back to the people and the community. Sure, TNP puts on great shows and does great things, but the people and their passion make TNP what it is. You can tell everybody loves what they do. It’s a community and that’s important to me.”

Jennifer’s “first life” started with a spontaneous audition in Toronto for Jean and Ryan Productions, a company that put on full scale Broadway musicals on cruise ships.

By The Way, Vera Stark

“After I graduated from the University of Windsor for acting, I took a year off and went to Teachers College for Junior Intermediate Dramatic Arts. No teaching jobs were available at the time, so I auditioned for a cruise ship. A three-month contract turned into 11 years, and meeting my husband, Brett in 1999. He was a cruise director. We got engaged and married in 2001, and at that time we thought we were done with cruise ships, so we moved to New London, Connecticut, and started our land life. That was the first time I lived in the US with a green card.”

After living in the US for one year, Jennifer and Brett ended upback on cruise ships for six years before settling down in Canada.

“I’ve been so fortunate to go everywhere. I’ve been on all seven continents and have been to 52 countries and 160 cities. I wanted to be near my mom and dad, so we built a house in Canada, and I started my second life as a teacher. I taught for 15 years in Ontario-mostly at the primary level because I enjoyed having my own classroom. I directed the junior intermediate choir and the school’s musicals. It was during this time that I gave birth to my daughter, Madison, and rediscovered my love for community theatre.”

When Jennifer and her family made the big move back to the United States, Jennifer was the saddest to leave behind the community theatres she’d been a part of from a young age.

By The Way. Vera Stark

“We ended up in Florida because lots of our friends from our cruise ship days live down here, and we’ve never really been fans of the cold anyway. My father had recently passed away, and I needed to get away from the memories of home. Our whole family needed a change, and Madison was young enough to see the move as an adventure.”

“When we moved to Naples, Brett was the one who found TNP for Madison and I. He sent us a video of the theatre along Fifth Avenue, and said, ‘there’s a beautiful theater down here, you’ll have to check it out.’ And that’s how our journey started at TNP. We were fortunate to dive right into our life in Florida, and it’s been a great experience for sure. My first interaction with TNP was during the summer of 2022 when I was looking for something for Madison to do. She’d been doing theater and Broadway boot camps since she was five. When I went on TNP’s website, I noticed that they had an education department, and I liked what I saw, it was hard to believe that it was a community theater. Since being at TNP, Madison has been bitten by the theater bug -she would move to New York City right now if she could. It’s my dream to one day get to do a show with my daughter.”

When signing Madison up for classes, Jennifer mentioned that she was a school teacher and actor and started volunteering with our KidzAct program.

“I loved working as an instructor and Assistant Directing Brothers Grimm, and I think that is the next step for me doing more programming for the Education Department. I would love to direct a children’s musical next.”

“I couldn’t help but miss being on stage, so I auditioned, and was cast in By the Way, Meet Vera Stark. I love performing. I just want to perform and enjoy being on stage and be happy. I feel so accomplished after creating a character, going through the whole rehearsal process, and entertaining an audience. The people you’re working with, you become quite close with. It takes everybody to make a show successful. Everyone has a stake in it. Most of my gratification and love of performing comes from everyone working together to create something so much greater than ourselves.”

“There’s something special about TNP and the magic that’s created here. You don’t just meet talented people, but lovely and nice people on top of that. The people here are all so genuinely nice and supportive. Community is especially important when your family is involved, and you are looking to expand upon it. Finding the right place to land is important,  people you can count on and are willing to help in any way possible. There’s something for all of us -Brett, Madison, and myself. I’m very proud to be a part of TNP, and am very grateful to be here.”

During this time of transition for Jennifer and her family, she sought a community to anchor her during her green card and residency process.

“I just became legal again. I had a green card 23 years ago and had to surrender it in 2010. I thought the process would be easier the second time around, but no it wasn’t. I had to do everything again. I haven’t been able to leave Florida for the last two years, and TNP has helped me through this time of limbo.”

Jennifer has since gone on to perform in The Dining Room, and will be in TNP’s upcoming productions of Clue: On Stage and 42nd Street.

Dining Room

“I auditioned for Clue: On Stage because I wanted to work with James again. Actors make great directors because they know what to tell you to achieve their vision. The cast is so talented, and we work well together. The rehearsal room is always filled with lots of laughs, and it has been great watching other seasoned actors do their thing. The show is very physical and the blocking is crazy. The show is really fun and full of movement.”

“Whether or not you’re a fan of Clue, if you enjoy Agatha Christie like murder mysteries, then you’ll appreciate the story and all of its twists and turns. The audience will immediately be drawn into the story, and, if you’re paying attention, then you might even be able to find the murder all on your own. This is the type of play that can be enjoyed by anyone.

From May 1-19, 2024, Clue: On Stage will be TNP’s final offsite production before they move back home to their newly renovated theater on 5th Ave S. Performances of Clue: On Stage are Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays & Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Saturdays & Sundays at 2 p.m. General tickets are $49, and season ticket holders are offered a price of $39.

In addition to performing in the final show offsite, Jennifer will also get to perform in the first show in the Kizzie Theater.

“It’s really cool that I get the opportunity to be a part of the last offsite production at TNP and the first show in the newly renovated theatre. It’s going to be exciting being back downtown. There’s nothing like the electricity of being right there on Fifth Avenue. I feel blessed to be able to be in back to back shows and be a part of something so special on both ends. I was thrilled to be cast in 42nd Street getting to work with Dawn and Charlie is like a dream come true.”

42nd Street will be on stage June 26 – July 21, 2024 in TNP’s newly renovated Kizzie Theater on 5th Ave S. Season tickets for TNP’s 71st Season in historic downtown Naples are on sale now. Performances of 42nd Street are Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays & Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. General tickets are $50-$55, and season ticket holders are offered a price of $41-$45.

We love getting new volunteers into the mix! If you’re new to the area or just new to volunteering at TNP, don’t hesitate to join the fun. Test your skills at the next audition, or contact Pamela Larkin Caruso today at 239-434-7340 ext. 104 to find out what other opportunities there are backstage and front of house. Those interested can visit anytime or call the TNP Box Office at (239) 263-7990.

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