HOW Army Veteran Jody Cameron has healed through the power of theatre

by Jillian Keith, TNP, Marketing Coordinator

Since actor and Army veteran Jody Cameron’s return from war over a decade ago, he’s been looking for something that will make him feel fulfilled and healed again. Jody has found it in the most “unlikely of places”: the stage. “Being here (at TNP) is like being reborn. I did Théâtre long before I served, and coming back to it has been challenging, freeing, and beautiful. I feel like I’ve found myself and my purposeagain.”

Jody’s beautiful daughter, Emily Cameron

“I’ve had to learn how to get over myself, my insecurities, unwelcome thoughts of ‘what if ’ and anxieties, and learn how-to trust my director and cast mates. I feel free to be myself here and not be judged, and free to explore different aspects of my characters and myself. Every day I’m here I feel like onion layers of myself are being peeled back and I’m feeling more and more secure in putting my demons to rest. It’s cathartic and beautiful how therapeutic it’s been coming off stage and applying everything I’m learning in rehearsals to the rest of my life.”

Jody Cameron and Jennifer Hart performing in The Dining Room at The Naples Players. Photo by Naples Creative.

Jody has lived in Naples for 12 years and moved here from Atlanta. He did theatre throughout middle and high school, but after joining the Army, he left behind that part of himself. “I remember my wife, Jessica, told me about The Sound of Music auditions and wanted our daughter, Emily, to audition for it. She was cast as Gretl. That was my first time in a theater in over 20 years.”

Despite not performing in The Sound of Music, Jody was drawn to the atmosphere of the community. “As soon as I stepped foot in the green room, I felt welcome. Emily was bouncing all around and with all of her cast mates, and it was great seeing how much they loved her company. The cast and crew sparked up conversations with me instantly and we started playing games together right there in the green room. It made me realize that while I had changed, theatre hadn’t. All the jokes were the same – the personalities were the same. I felt at home for the first time in a while in that green room.”

Jody Cameron and Ruth Johnson
performing in The Dining Room at
The Naples Players.
Photo by Naples Creative.

Since then, Jody has performed in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Dining Room. The stage has not only allowed him to rediscover himself, but to develop deeper and more meaningful relationships with his family. “Emily’s older brother, Joseph, is 11, and we jive on all the same things. For the past seven years, I’ve been looking, searching, and praying for something to connect with Emily on. It’s been really hard and challenging. When she got cast in The Sound of Music, and I started going to rehearsal with her, she started to see aside of me that she hadn’t ever seen before. Singing the songs together really brought us together. And then when I was cast in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, we started singing those songs together. I still remember her screaming from the bottom floor of the house, running up the stairs, jumping up and wrapping her arms and legs around me, and hugging me so tight when she found out I was cast. That soundtrack is both of my kids’ favorite thing to listen to now. I’m grateful we all have this together now.”

For Jody, TNP has been a place to rediscover and reconnect with himself. “TNP is my dining room table, bringing everybody and every aspect of my life together. Everyone here is a storyteller- we gravitate towards it, and it brings us closer together. When we leave, we take a piece of the tale with us, and we keep telling the stories; not just verbally, but through our actions in real life. I tried everything to get over my demons – classes with the Veterans Affairs (VA), I was in and out of VA hospitals – but coming here has helped me far more than anything else. It’s in the most unlikely of places that you become reborn as a person, and I’m grateful to have found my place.”

Thank you, Jody, for your service and powerful story of change. All of our staff and volunteers love to get new volunteers into the mix! Test your skills at the next audition or contact Pamela Larkin Caruso at 239-434-7340, ext. 104 to find out what other opportunities there are backstage and front of house!

We love to get 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.

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