Theatre and Dance Huskie Spotlight

Huskie Spotlight: Jonathan Perkins, ’24, B.F.A. in Acting

Jonathan Perkins

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Funnily enough, I originally got accepted to NIU to pursue computer science. I’ve always been drawn to the tech side of things because of my mother and grandmother, so I suppose it just ran in the family. Clearly, that didn’t work out because now I’m an acting major. I wouldn’t have it any other way though. I found my calling and am so blessed to be where I am right now.

What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study? I’m in my third year of the BFA Acting program here at NIU. It’s insane because I decided to audition merely on a whim. I was stuck here as a computer science major and had the best scholarship available, so I decided to do something that I’ve always loved. So I emailed Stanton Davis, who was the head of the BFA program at the time, and set up an audition. The whole situation was nerve wracking since I’d never done an official audition like that before. Then I got accepted on the spot. From that point on, it was family. I love these people man, from the bottom of my heart.

What is your favorite thing about the School of Theatre and Dance at NIU? Where do I start? First of all, my cohort is the absolute best. These guys have literally been my Day One homies, perhaps because we’re all forced to take every single SOTD class together.

There’s 11 of us now, but we originally started with 18 people at the very beginning (which was completely online). Yeah, it definitely has to be the people. Everyone is so creative and full of life and energy. It’s like a giant machine that keeps the artistic breath of the school working.

Being in the Stevens Building every day just fuels me to keep going. The productions are to die for as well, like, oh lord! My head is still spinning that I’m even here. There are just so many things that I love about this school, it’s difficult to pick.

I will say that if you’ve never had the chance to see a production here at NIU, you’re seriously missing out. If you’re a student, it’s completely free! Nothing beats seeing live theatre. Nothing in the world (besides the obvious other great aspects of life separate from theatre).

How have you connected with other students at NIU? As stated earlier, I’m practically attached by the hip to my acting cohort, and I love them very much. Though we get to experience working with other aspects of the SOTD like the gifted design tech students, BAs, MFAs, minors, you name it. Outside of the SOTD, I met some dope people from living in the residence halls. I’ve learned so much from everyone and the campus is so much larger than I thought it was.

Why did you choose to study in the NIU School of Theatre and Dance? Yeah, it was completely by happenstance. I wasn’t passionate about computer science as I am about acting. Growing up, you hear a bunch of people telling you that becoming an actor isn’t something you can do with all your heart. They ask about a backup plan, which insinuates that you aren’t going to succeed. I rationalized it like this: It’s my life and I gain nothing from listening to how others perceive me; so I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do. And that’s what I did. I auditioned for the BFA Acting program instead of a minor because I wanted to put my full attention to something that I love. If this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life, then why not go all out and prove that I’m worthy enough to be here? The SOTD provided that foundation for me, so I’m doing this for the Jon that was told he wouldn’t succeed as an artist. This is all for the underprivileged people who were told they couldn’t amount to anything in this industry. NIU’s SOTD is giving me the training, and I’m going to utilize it to the fullest extent with no apologies.

Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why?  Man, now y’all are making me choose! I’ve given a lot of credit to Stanton Davis, my voice and speech professor because he’s the largest reason why I’m here to begin with and always pushes me to be better. However, I have to shout out Dr. Kay Martinovich, the current head of the BFA program. Kay has such a beautiful soul and has given me opportunities beyond words. Recently, she directed me in “Much Ado About Nothing” and I felt so welcome during that entire process. My artistic (and of course real) heart is always so full around her, and she deserves a lot more gratitude for everything she’s done. The thing about the SOTD is that these are not just our professors, they’re all our collaborators. Every single professor here is wonderful and choosing just one would be a disservice to them.

Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community?  My favorite spot is and will always be the Stevens Building. Since I did my entire first year of college online, it felt like I was missing that significant piece of my training. I’d wander around the building, and it was like a ghost town. However, when my second year rolled around, it all clicked. I knew instantly that this is where I needed to be. From the movement lab all the way to the Sally theatre, that building has been my artistic home. When I graduate, I’m going to miss the times when I lay on the floor just breathing with my cohort. That feeling is incomparable.

Are you involved in any student organizations or extra-curricular activities? You can mainly find me in the SOTD productions each semester! Other than that, I’m involved in the Friday Afternoon Reading series hosted by Dr. Gibson Cima. The reading series focuses on playwrights of color and the whole thing is just a wonderful opportunity to hear stories that aren’t regularly put on the stage. I’m also in an improv group called On The Spot, so it’s just a lovely time overall.

What advice would you give to a student who is applying to colleges?  Look, I know it feels like the pressure of the world is weighing down on your shoulders. It’s only as big as you make it. Know yourself and don’t let any type of negative energy stop you from doing what you love. Also file that FAFSA immediately, ain’t nothing wrong with some more money in your pocket.

Coming to college, what is something that you have had to learn to do differently? Time management for sure! I’m absolutely awful at it, especially with the busy schedule that I have. Freshman year was really a wake-up call, cause no one was gonna do everything for me. I had to figure out when I could do homework and eat in between rehearsal schedules. The number of times when I nearly fainted cause I didn’t take care of myself wasn’t cool, so I’d heavily encourage people to figure that out sooner rather than later.

What do you do to relax or recharge? The obvious answer would be sleep, but that’d be too easy. I go for a lot of walks around campus, especially on weekends. There’s something peaceful about putting in a podcast or some R&B and just observing the world. It’s also a form of research because as an actor I love to see people in their natural habitat. Everyone always has an objective and how they carry themselves as a result of it. Walking is just time for my nerves and it protects my peace.

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