Making Dreams Come True with Bay Area Sweetheart Taylor Jones

Groundhog Day
August Wilson Theatre

Written By Jade Shojaee

Bay Area sweetheart, Taylor Jones has been preparing for Broadway since she was 10 years old and this year, she made her debut in the new hit-original musical, Groundhog Day. Destined to become a star, Taylor credits much of her success to her “Bay Area family,” the DRAA and Lesher Center for the Arts community.

In this exclusive DRAA interview, Taylor talks about the power of hard work, amazing role models, the can-do attitude and passion it took to make her dreams come true.

You have been such an integral part of the Walnut Creek/ Bay Area theatre community for so many years Taylor. Can you tell us how you got started in theatre and what role the LCA community played in helping you build this gloriously successful career? 

I started doing theater when I was 10.  I was invited by a friend at school to do the local Youth Theater Musical at Solano College.  Once I started, I never stopped.  I made the switch over to community theater right before graduating High School, in The Willows production of The Wedding Singer. Doing this production exposed me to a whole new world of theater and people.

I saw CCMT was having auditions for Rent, and after originally being cast in the ensemble, the girl playing Mimi dropped out, so I got bumped up!  It’s almost like the rest is history.  Jenny Perry (Center REP casting Director) saw me in that production and called me in for shows at Center Rep, and I must’ve done almost 10 shows in less than three years between those companies.  They treated me like a professional and expected nothing less, which helped me to grow exponentially.

The professionalism and love of these two companies really shaped a lot of who I am today.  They believed in me, embraced me, challenged me, and always supported me beyond expectations.

I will always be grateful and proud to be a Bay Area Alumni.

Many aspiring performers dream of moving to NYC in pursuit of their dreams but not all of them have the courage to do it. What was it like booking that one-way ticket? How long had you been building up to it? What was the hardest part of making that change?

Booking the one-way ticket felt incredible.  I felt like I’d been gearing up for it my entire life, so it wasn’t a sudden decision.  But it was one that took a while to actually be ready for.  There’s a lot of things to think about when moving to New York.  Are you ready? Financially, professionally, spiritually, emotionally.  It took over a year of lots of working and super focus to save for the move, but I also had my own personal goals before moving long before that.

I did an acting program at A.C.T, I got my equity card, I wanted to make sure I did a couple straight plays, worked at certain companies, took a lot more dance classes (special shout out to The Lareen Fender Ballet School), and really tried to observe the types of performers in New York to feel up to speed.

Then I took the dive.

What has been the most challenging and most rewarding part of your new life as a Broadway performer?

I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a New Broadway show that also happened to be Tony Nominated. So, the rewards have been endless.  It’s still unbelievable that my “day job” is Broadway. Coming from the regional and community theater scene it’s pretty amazing, to say the least.

Groundhog Day was lucky enough to perform in the Tony’s. Talk about dreams coming true.  I also happen to be an understudy. Usually I’m in the ensemble, but sometimes I get to play the lead role opposite Andy Karl. I couldn’t ask for more.

With all that, Broadway schedules are hard! Eight shows a week is no joke, and as all performers know it is a full-time-life job.  So, learning to take care of myself has become more important than ever.

What is one thing you wish someone had told you when you were living in the Bay Area and aspiring to build a theatre career?

I don’t think there is a lack of advice coming out of the bay.  If I could say anything it would be listen to those who inspire you, and take note. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  My favorite part about doing theater in the Bay is the mix of people, and why they are in that show at that time.  Use that to your advantage and be real with yourself and what you need.

Can you tell us what it’s like to audition in NYC? What was your experience like auditioning and being cast in Groundhog Day?

Auditioning in New York is like playing in the Major Leagues.  You have to be at the top of your game, but you can’t take anything personally.  There are more people than anywhere else and everyone is more talented than the last.  So, you have to get used to it and find a way to get as comfortable as you can, because you’ll be doing it ALL THE TIME. So, you might as well find any way to enjoy it.

Groundhog Day was no different.  It was at the end of a handful of auditions and I went in more prepared than I had ever been before for anything else.  The first time I went in, I did a song and a couple of scenes from the show for the casting directors.  Then, at the first callback I did the same scenes and songs for some of the creative team. Most of them were in London so my whole audition was also put on tape.  There were 6 or 8 girls at this round and we all danced together before we sang for a couple of hours. This was also put on tape.

A few days later, I got another callback to dance by myself. It was, by far, the hardest thing I’d ever done. I was working a double shift waitressing at a 5 Napkin Burger when I got the call.  We joke about “Broadway calling.” It is heart-stopping when it does.

What was the rehearsal process like? How was it different than rehearsing for a show in the Bay?

Our show is extremely complicated.  We have FIVE turntables set into each other like a clock. So, there was lots of training on how to just walk around towards the beginning, then the dancing and running backwards came after.

Our dance numbers are also highly woven and individual so there was LOTS and LOTS of dance rehearsal.  Trying to keep track of which number you’re in, when your show is about the same day repeating, can be pretty confusing at first.  Six weeks in our studio, one month of tech, one more month of previews, and then we opened!  It’s definitely the longest process I’ve ever been a part of, but now I’ll forever be an Original Broadway Cast Member and that’s pretty weird and exciting to say!

Creating a show is something every actor should try to do before moving to New York if they can.  You have to be ready for constant change, and to roll with the punches as best you can.

What’s next for you?

Next? Who knows!! I’m still auditioning all the time.  I had a nine-week stretch of pulling double duty. I was doing a couple of workshops during the day while performing the show at night.

I’m looking into taking classes, and still settling into my life in New York! I am definitely missing my Bay Area family, and can’t wait to visit, but I’m so excited for what the future holds!