This month, we caught up with singer, actor, composer, and musical director Jason Marks. You may have seen this talented performer on the Richmond stage last year as Max Bialystock in Virginia Rep’s wildly popular production of The Producers. Or, your kiddo might recognize him as Horton the Elephant from Seussical the Musical, one of Jason’s favorite roles.
Born and raised in Richmond, in 2010 Jason ventured to the Big Apple – and that other famous street that begins with Broad – after winning a performing arts contest that landed him a free six-month stay in the city.
“During my time, I auditioned, participated in master classes, and did lots of networking,” says Jason.
Although he hasn’t given up his Broadway dreams, it’s family and his commitment to the arts and young people that keep Jason’s feet on the ground in RVA. “I have dreams of getting back to New York one day, but for now, I’ll focus on my immediate future, while performing locally as well as educating young artists about the performing arts.”
To that end, Jason collaborated with Debra Clinton on the music for Croaker, an original musical produced by SPARC and performed by a youth cast. Jason has worked with and for SPARC since he was eighteen and says the organization “is a true bright light in the community of performing arts.”
What’s next for Jason? A role that would turn any great, big, musical performer green with envy. This month, Jason stars in Shrek at the Children’s Theatre of Virginia, as the gregarious ogre families have grown to love since DreamWorks first introduced him on the big screen in 2001. (Yes, it’s been that long!)
With so many theater credits on his resumé, we asked Jason to give us some perspective on what it’s like to perform for kids and families. “The best part is the delight and honest truth that radiates from everyone when they tell you how much they enjoyed your performance,” says Jason. “Kids are the most honest people on the planet, and they tell you exactly what they think. Nothing beats being hugged by a young audience member, and knowing that I may have brought some joy into their lives, or the lives of their family for a little while is a tremendous and fulfilling pleasure.”
Keep reading to learn more about one of Richmond’s most treasured creative talents and see if you don’t agree that Jason Marks is just about the polar opposite of the famous ogre he’s playing.
Mountains or beach?
I went to college in the mountains of Winchester, so I’ve always had an affinity for the scenic beauty of mountains.
What book is on your nightstand now?
Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle. It’s the follow up to Better Nate Than Ever about a young boy who runs away from home to audition for E.T. The Musical on Broadway. The books are incredibly charming and full of great, relatable characters for both young readers as well as adults.
What’s the last concert or play you attended?
I attended the LiveArt concert produced by SPARC back in December. Students of all abilities performed along with national recording artists Jason Mraz and kd Lang – it was an amazing event!
Favorite Richmond restaurant with family?
This is a close tie between Tarrant’s and Joe’s Inn. Both restaurants are my favorites for different reasons: they offer great, diverse menus; and I enjoy them a lot! When my family gets together, we also like Tripps in the West End.
When it’s just you and friends?
A great outing for me and my friends is usually as simple as dinner at Joe’s Inn after a show, or taking in a movie at Bow Tie Cinemas on the Boulevard. Game nights with lots of laughter are always fun, too.
What is your favorite way to spend a rainy Sunday?
Honestly? I love lounging on rainy days! Sleeping in, or doing chores, listening to music, or reading a book – something mellow and easy. However, many of my rainy Sundays are spent performing or rehearsing, and if I can’t be lazy, there’s nothing I’d rather do than entertain an audience.
What is your energy source?
Music is my energy source. I would be lost and empty without the ability to sing, or listen to a symphony, or compose what I hear in my head. I think music is an essential and vital part of life.
Favorite Richmond outing?
Maymont Park is a real blessing to have in this community, and every time I go, I’m reminded of how beautiful it is.
Readers will be surprised to know…
That I’m actually very, very shy! While singing and acting have always come naturally to me, and I’m extremely comfortable on stage, in private, I’m pretty reserved and nothing at all like my onstage personas. I think my shyness has actually helped me in the world of performing arts. It allows me to have a unique outlet where I can safely be someone outside of myself, and share my talents with the world.