Above: Allison Jones at the Improv Shop KC, 3810 Broadway Blvd. (photo by Jim Barcus)
The Emerging Kansas City Actress Shines in Multiple Roles, Signaling ‘A Great Career Ahead’
Allison Jones burst onto the Kansas City theater scene in 2018 with her performance in Spinning Tree’s colorful “Once On This Island.” She had performed in “Sondheim on Sondheim” with Summit Theatre Group in Lee’s Summit and in “Sister Act” with The Barn Players Theatre, but “Island” was her breakthrough. Impressed by her brilliant smile and air of innocence, Marissa Carter of “PerformInk Kansas City” found her “delightful to watch as Ti Moune.”
Jones followed up with a turn as Eliza Doolittle in Musical Theatre Heritage’s fall 2018 production of “My Fair Lady,” directed by Heidi Van. Bruce Roach, the nationally renowned actor who played Henry Higgins, recalls, “Her Eliza was so exuberant and full of hunger for life and knowledge. And that voice! Geez. I remember sitting in the dressing room before every performance listening to her warm up backstage. She’d sing everything from jazz to gospel to opera, you name it. And all effortlessly. I think she has a great career ahead of her.”
Jones subsequently performed in the Quartet for “A Christmas Carol” and was one of the girls in “School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play,” both for KC Rep, and in “Charlie Brown Christmas” at The Coterie. Last October, she played Sarah in MTH’s “Ragtime,” and January found her cast as Joan in “Fun Home” for KC Rep. Her performance drew praise from Robert Trussell in “KC Studio” for “deftly (managing) the character’s penchant for wisecracks and sardonic observations.”
With such a seemingly smooth and quick trajectory, one might assume Jones grew up with acting dreams. But it was nature and science that fascinated her. She moved from St. Louis to Lee’s Summit, where, as a second-grade Girl Scout, she loved camp and programs like the Scouts’ INVENTure University, in which participants invent, build and present a product — Jones came up with an improved peanut butter jar. As a big believer in the need for girls to be represented in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math), she later earned a degree in biology at Alabama A&M University.
Jones got her first taste of performing at the Kansas City Zoo, working in shows and as part of the Zoomobile teams. The job “fulfilled both of my passions,” she said, “wildlife and performance.” Jones had performed in high school and college productions, and “the Zoo helped keep that creative space open,” she said. “However, when my voice teacher encouraged me to audition for local musicals, those shows enlarged that creative space with music and new, untapped potential.”
Jones said she combats nervousness on stage with a trick: “believing you are, in that moment, the character you’re giving life to. If you don’t believe you are the character,” she added, “you and the audience won’t buy in to the reality of it.”
“My goal, or really prayer, as an actor is to be a lightbulb in the spaces I get to play in,” she said. “Whether that’s the audition space, the callback space, rehearsal or the stage, I want to express goodness and cheer, peace and warmth to those around me. It fills me immensely to watch my peers glow, and sometimes a room isn’t given permission to glow unless someone decides to flip the switch.”
That sense of team spirit made an impression on Spinning Tree’s Andy Grayman-Parkhurst: “She seems to possess that combination of confidence and curiosity that drives performers to the top,” he said. “On top of all that, there’s a self-deprecating quality that allows the other actors in the room to love her instead of envy her.”
As with most actors, COVID-19 closings have disrupted Jones’ scheduled performances, including an appearance in the Coterie’s “Pete the Cat” (her first role as a mom), directed by Heidi Van, which has been rescheduled for spring 2021. This summer, Jones was looking forward to being guided by choreographer Jerry Jay Cranford for “Freaky Friday” at New Theatre, but at press time it was uncertain if the production would open as scheduled.
Jones says her dream role would be to create a Sesame Street-like program promoting animal conservation and education, building on her continuing appearance with KC Zoo’s “Wild Wednesdays,” an online enrichment program focusing on otters, stingrays, tigers and more.
All this, and just turning 30. Bruce Roach adds a final take on Jones. “She is not a diva. And with her talent, she certainly could be.”