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Meet J. Isaiah Smith – Rose kid!

This piece is part of a series showcasing Rose students past and present.

When you bring your child to The Rose, you never know where the experience will lead. They may write the next Broadway sensation or light up the stage as an actor. Or maybe the leadership skills they learn in the theater will help them land a job in the corporate world directing a staff of thousands.

An arts education teaches kids to use their imagination to innovate and problem-solve in ways that transcend the stage and lead to a successful life. Here’s proof.


Jonathon Isaiah Smith

The following blog post highlights the career of J. Isaiah Smith. (Although those of us who “knew him when” call him Jonathan.) Jonathan has accomplished so much at a very young age. He has appeared in numerous stage productions throughout the Omaha area, winning several awards for his performance skills. He is a published playwright, with another script scheduled to be published very soon. He writes and performs in short films and is currently working on composing his own musical. A recent high school graduate, Jonathan’s talents are impressing theater greats like Kristin Chenoweth, Jason Michael Webb, Stephen Bray, Sammy Buck and Brian Feinstein.

But before he was the next great theater success story, he was a Rose kid. Here is his story.


At a young age Jonathan Smith, (who now goes by the stage name J. Isaiah Smith) says he was a shy person.

“I was very introverted throughout my growing days. I kept to myself as a defense mechanism due certain struggles I faced in life. However when I came upon theater, my life changed tremendously,” he says.

However when I came upon theater, my life changed tremendously.

Jonathan started in theater at his high school and after two years, he branched out to The Rose Theater to audition for Mary Poppins at his choral teacher’s suggestion.

“I didn’t know then how much The Rose would make an impact on my life and theater career,” says Jonathan.

As his first venture into professional theater, Mary Poppins was a big step for Jonathan to make. After being cast in the show, he began to make many friends at The Rose.

“These people believed in me more than I ever did in himself,” he says. “The experience at The Rose Theater confirmed a question I had been asking myself my whole life… and after that point, I dedicated himself to theater. The Rose became a home to me, and I felt very welcomed within this family.”

Jonathan continued at The Rose, performing in mainstage shows until his senior year in high school. He started taking classes and joined The Rose Brigade. Although he started later than most students at The Rose, Jonathan was determined to learn as much as he could and master his skills in the arts. Taking voice, dance, and acting classes, Jonathan learned vital lessons about acting, vocal control, and was an enormous fan of tap dancing.

Jonathan’s Rose education opened up his mind to not just the theater world, but also the world itself. Taught by people who would soon become close friends and fellow actors, he learned from their experiences, as well as his own. He explains, “Many of the teaching artists told me stories of their lives, and of teaching college students, and of their own experiences on Broadway. Through the Rose Brigade I was taught to learn; to accept that I didn’t know everything I thought I did; and to work with others coming from all sorts of backgrounds and worlds to create the beauty that is theater, and that is our world.”

Through the Rose Brigade I was taught to learn; to accept that I didn’t know everything I thought I did; and to work with others coming from all sorts of backgrounds and worlds to create the beauty that is theater, and that is our world.

Perhaps most significantly, The Rose inspired Jonathan to create! “Theater is creation, and anyone who has ever done a show knows that in order to put forth a meaningful show, a great creation process must take place,” Jonathan says.

Theater is creation, and anyone who has ever done a show knows that in order to put forth a meaningful show, a great creation process must take place

Jonathan loves creating characters and sweet moments on stage, but he has now inspired himself to take it to the next level.

Adopting the stage name J. Isaiah Smith, he became a playwright; his first play was published in 2016 at the age of 18, but Jonathan didn’t stop there. In 2017 he got word that another of his plays will be published. He is also a self-taught composer and is currently writing the book, music score, and lyrics for his very own musical. He is an award-winning actor and singer having appeared in many different shows at The Rose, Omaha Community Playhouse, and recently The Circle Theatre. He even does film acting and writing as well, co-writing more than 10 different short films as well as staring or being featured in them.

Jonathan has worked with Kristin Chenoweth (Wicked, Charlie Brown, etc.), Jason Michael Webb (Music Director for The Color Purple, Billy Elliot on Broadway, Memphis, etc), Stephen Bray (Composer/Lyricist for The Color Purple), Sammy Buck (Lyricist for Stinky Kids Off-Broadway), and Brian Feinstein (Composer for Mimi Le Duck Off-Broadway).

Jonathan says theater is his life, and it has inspired him to reach as many goals as fate will allow him to have.

Jonathan says, “Even if you won’t major in, or go on to do theater in the long run, you’re missing out on some awesome experiences and life lessons if you don’t give it a shot. I believe that theater teaches many different things and much more than any school system ever could, so why not try your hand at a theater school?”

Even if you won’t major in, or go on to do theater in the long run, you’re missing out on some awesome experiences and life lessons if you don’t give it a shot. I believe that theater teaches many different things and much more than any school system ever could, so why not try your hand at a theater school?

He has one final message to those students following in his footsteps: “And to any new students starting classes at The Rose… Once you start stay with it. Theater is a great way to learn about who you are as a person, and who you can be. There is so much to be learned and so much to teach. You could follow your passion at The Rose and you could discover your future. I know I did.”

Theater is a great way to learn about who you are as a person, and who you can be. There is so much to be learned and so much to teach. You could follow your passion at The Rose and you could discover your future. I know I did.

 

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