Today’s guest is Jacob Starks.
What I love about the entertainment business is how everyone has a story to share and everyone’ s journey is so unique. This week on A Voice and Beyond, we introduce you to Jacob Starks, who is a singer/ dancer currently performing in the cast of Aladdin on Broadway. I am so excited to introduce you to Jacob as I had the pleasure of meeting him for the time in 2018 on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice, where he was performing as a production cast singer in his first contract for Celebrity. Last year, we caught up again in the Mediterranean on the ship Celebrity Beyond, where he told me that his dream was to go to New York and perform in a music theatre show on Broadway. Well he has done it!!
Prior to working for Celebrity, Jacob was employed at Walt Disney World in The Festival of the Lion King, with FELD Entertainment; and Universal Studios Japan.
In this episode, Jacob shares his unique journey that has led him to landing his dream job. Despite not having had any formal voice training, dropping out of college and being fired by two different entertainment companies, he believes that these life events have led him to where he is now. Jacob also discusses the audition process that landed him his dream role, the busy rehearsal schedule, the expectations of production companies, his own experiences as someone belonging to a minority group and the general demands of being a performer on Broadway. Jacob Starks is one of my very favourite people and I am sure you are going to love him as well.
In this Episode
1:27 – Introducing Jacob Starks
7:14 – Jacob’s training and growing up in Louisiana
17:20 – Do you feel like not having formal training held you back?
26:42 – Auditioning for a role at Disney World
35:35 – Finishing up with Celebrity and auditioning for Broadway
40:53 – Do you have to be part of a union?
42:40 – Is it who you know?
1:04:49 – Is covid still impacting the shows on Broadway?
1:14:16 – What’s next for Jacob?
Find Jacob online
NEW CCM BOOK
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith is excited to announce the release of her new book “Singing Contemporary Commercial Music Styles: A Pedagogical Framework” published by Compton Publications UK. Marisa offers this book as a starting point and as CCM markets continue to evolve, she encourages that we, as a voice community, continue to evolve, debate and communally add to this framework.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 00:00
Hi it’s Marissa Lee here, and I’m so excited to be sharing today’s interview round episode with you. In these episodes, our brilliant lineup of guests will include healthcare practitioners, voice educators, and other professionals who will share their stories, knowledge and experiences within their specialised fields to empower you to live your best life. Whether you’re a member of the voice, community, or beyond your voice is your unique gift. It’s time now to share your gift with others develop a positive mindset and become the best and most authentic version of yourself to create greater impact. Ultimately, you can take charge, it’s time for you to live your best life. It’s time now for a voice and beyond. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 01:16
What I love about the entertainment business is how everyone has a story to tell and every performers journey is so unique. This week on a voice and beyond, we welcome Jacob Starks who is a singer dancer currently performing in the cast of Aladdin on Broadway. I’m so excited to introduce you to Jacob as I’ve had the pleasure of first meeting Jacob in 2018 on the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice where he was performing in his first contract for celebrity as a singer in a production cast. Last year, we caught up again in the Mediterranean, where he was performing on the ship celebrity beyond. Prior to working for celebrity, Jacob had worked at Walt Disney World in the festival of The Lion King with Feld Entertainment, and he has also performed at Universal Studios, Japan. It was on his last night of performing on the ship, Jacob had told me he was going to follow his dream of going to New York to perform in a music theatre show on Broadway. Well, I’m overjoyed to say that he has done it. In this episode, Jacob shares with us his very unique journey that has led him to land his dream job despite not having any formal voice training. Despite dropping out of college and being fired by two different entertainment companies. Jacob reveals that all this has led him to where he is now. Jacob also describes the audition process that landed him his dream role, the rehearsal schedule, his own experiences as someone who belongs to a minority group and the expectations and demands of being a performer on Broadway. This is such a great story. And it’s not hard to tell that Jacob Starks is one of my very favourite people, and I’m sure you are going to love him as well. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 04:00
Welcome to a voice and beyond. Jacob Starks is in the house. One of my favourite human beings. How are you going?
Jacob Starks 04:13
I’m really good. It’s so good to see you go so good to talk to you. I love you. You’re one of my favourite people on the planet. That i i met Ashley, your daughter who introduced me to you like this has been so great. So high.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 04:31
And hug. Hug. And Jacob I want to say I’m just so proud of you. I feel like I’m your second Mama. No. Yeah, I just love your work. We met in 2018 Yeah, on Celebrity Solstice. It was your first contract performing as a singer in a production cast alongside my daughter who was dancing in the show. Oh, yeah. And I just fell in love with you. Then we met again last year in the Mediterranean on Celebrity beyond, and I couldn’t believe the growth in you as a performer, as a singer as an entertainer in the shows, there is something so mesmerising about you when you’re on stage. And where I’m so proud of you is that I was on your last itinerary before disembarking celebrity beyond. And I asked you what you were going to do next. And you said, I’m going to move to New York, and I’m going to try and get onto Broadway. And guess what I did. And I said to you, if you get into a show on Broadway, I’m going to come and watch you. I am so going to come and watch you and support you. i So you know, I’ve seen that transition from that first contract. Where, you know, I’m gonna be honest, like, technically, you weren’t as skilled as some of the other singers. Yeah, yeah. And you know that yes, of course. Right. But there was something about you that I just said that guy there is my favourite. In this cast. There is just, you had like this x factor. And
Jacob Starks 06:27
oh, yeah, but you got the the X Factor The thing that the it, you had
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 06:31
the thing and the it. So anyway, that’s enough of me, elevating you, because we’re gonna do that as we go along. So you can tell people that I love this human? Yeah. Yeah. And so you are currently in the cast of Aladdin on Broadway. And we’re going to talk about that. But yeah, let’s talk about your journey. Because I think your journey has been a little bit out of the box a little bit out of the ordinary and where people go, Oh, if I want to go on Broadway, this is what I’m going to do. Right? And you did not
Jacob Starks 07:08
say that. And that is not what happened to me. And I’m here. I’m living proof.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 07:14
I know. So let’s start with your training. You were born and raised in Boyce, Louisiana. So tell us about where this performance journey started for you.
Jacob Starks 07:25
Okay, so I grew up in Boyce, Louisiana. I had always been singing Of course, I was in like a in my church’s choir growing up as a kid. Even my church would even have these little dance groups that would perform on like special occasions. And so I started doing that. And I would say, like, I fell in love with performing growing up. I think my generation like, I’m sure we all watched TV a lot growing up, but I feel like my generation was like, glued to like the Disney Channel, musical movies. You know what I mean? Like the high school musicals, the Cheetah Girls, those kinds of things. And I feel like I was really inspired a lot growing up watching those things. And I was like, and I can do that. Okay. I was in choir at church and dance groups at church and was getting a lot of accolades and and positive reinforcement from it, like letting me know that, hey, this is something that you are good at. And then I went to high school, where I started to learn to thing more, I guess, like Coralie, so I could read music. I was I was a part of conferences or competitions, where you, you know, like, bands go, and they get like, first second chair. I did that in high school, and went to my first convention and got like, second chair as a tenor, which was really cool. But then after that, I was like, okay, but I want to do this as a, like a career. And one day, we had a professor from a university that was about maybe an hour away from the high school that I was going to, he came and visited. And while we were in choir class, I just had like, left it up to for questions. And I said, if I want to make this a career, what do I do? And he said, to come to school, he was the choral director at Northwestern State University of Louisiana. So I, I tried out, and I got into his choir. And it was a musical theatre department at the school as well. And so I auditioned for that as well. My audition song was a Joanna from Sweeney Todd, because I had never been I wasn’t listening to musicals like on Broadway or like there wasn’t any there weren’t any theatre up reductions in my hometown. So the only song I guess what I? Yeah, the well, the only way I could see that sort of medium was in the movies. So Sweeney, or hairspray, things that like were hugely popular are the only ways that I knew of musical theatre. So I was like, Okay, well, I need a musical theatre song to audition. I just watched to Sweeney Todd, like a few months ago, I’m gonna go sing that song.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 10:24
Right. So you had not been exposed to musical theatre at all. And you were probably aged about 1819. By then.
Jacob Starks 10:33
Yeah, I was at this point. I was 18 years old. And the first time I sang a musical theatre song was at that audition for the musical theatre programme at school.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 10:43
Wow, incredible. So up until this point, you had had no formal training in terms of private singing tuition, any dance lessons other than your through your church?
Jacob Starks 10:58
Yeah. And none of no professional. No one was a professional dancer, no one was a professional singer. They were all just giving tips and advice on what they do personally. And the only, I would say technical training that I had was in my choir class where she taught us, this is an A, this is a, b, c, d, and this is the staff. This is how you came.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 11:19
That wasn’t like singing training. That was just music training. Yeah. So you had no vocal tuition at all. And you ended up getting into this institution in the musical theatre department. So you must have had a lot of natural ability. Yeah. Because it’s not easy to get into any of these institutions.
Jacob Starks 11:43
No, it’s not. And I do have to commend I think a lot of the work or adaptation that I have I got from being able being able to have that outlet and choir at school or in the dance group at church. So a lot got facilitated a lot of my my natural ability, like, there was some. And I think with that, growing up is how I was like, moulding and shaping who I would end up being as a performer.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 12:11
Yeah, very interesting. So I know a little bit about your story here. And you ended up though, having four private singing lessons, that’s one on one singing lessons during a summer programme.
Jacob Starks 12:27
In all four years that I attended college, I had four lessons, four
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 12:35
lessons. Now people on Broadway that are listening that have had 4000 lessons are probably going to start hating on you, and all those people that that are getting knocked back after knocked back on Broadway. I’m not gonna like you too much, Jacob, I’m just telling you.
Jacob Starks 12:54
It was honestly it’s the circumstance, I was going to a university in a small town in Knack addition, Louisiana, spelled natural ptosis
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 13:06
and you were not precocious at NASA. ptosis.
Jacob Starks 13:11
It was the circumstance, you know, there was a it was a small school, I think, in total in the programme. There were, I want to say six professors in the whole programme. And what like two of them were acting professors. One of them was a music professor and two of them were dance. And I you know, do you know this, but I in the singing lessons, I got them because I was like, I have to try something. Because I auditioned for I auditioned for the musical for the theatre programme that at the umbrella, and I got in. And while you’re there, it’s subdivided into two, what would you call concentrations, so there was a musical theatre concentration or dance concentration, or maybe even just an acting concentration? And so I auditioned again, to be in the musical theatre concentration, but was
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 14:02
denied. Denied. It was like, we know that sign.
Jacob Starks 14:11
And I’m honest with you don’t know why. I mean, would it be out of the norm for a performer to think highly of themselves and say, I should have gotten in? Sure. That’s, that’s normal. Most people feel that way. But I honestly was like, very confused as to why I wasn’t accepted when previous to auditioning to be in the musical theatre programme. This was maybe like the end of the second semester of my freshman year. So this would be six months and to being in the programme. I had already done a musical on the stage for the theatre programme. So I had already proved that I can do it. So when I auditioned for the musical theatre programme at the end of my freshman year, I was like, oh, okay, I’ll get it.
Jacob Starks 15:03
And I leave it up to I think it was my professors way of trying to teach me something in some roundabout toxic way. Yes, trying to teach me a lesson or maybe want me to want to prove myself more. But what it did instead was turn me to dance.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 15:26
Really? So rather than you going, Okay, I’m going to show you I’m going to prove you wrong. You decided that, okay, I’m not having this anymore. I’m gonna go over here. Yeah. So it was like, by timeout, I’m going to dancing. But why did you do the for singing lessons?
Jacob Starks 15:45
Because this was I didn’t get the singing lessons until my junior year. So this was three years after I started college. So at this age, I’m probably 21 When I had my first singing lesson, and I got them because I thought that that’s what you were supposed to do. Yes, they were offering them. I hadn’t had them. And they usually just give them to the musical theatre. Students who are in that concentration, they usually just give them to them right away, like without, you know, them having to ask, but there were some available that weren’t being taken up by those students. Right. And I was, like, that’s what I want to do. Or, you know, and I shouldn’t be taking music lessons or singing lessons. And there’s some available, so I want to grab them signed up, and didn’t have to audition for those, thankfully.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 16:32
Okay, so what was that experience like for you? What do you remember learning in those four lessons?
Jacob Starks 16:39
And those four lessons I learned? I think two songs. And that’s all I learned from my time
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 16:46
I say you learn two songs. What about any technical skills? No. So they weren’t proper, let’s say prophesying lessons, it was more like vocal coaching.
Jacob Starks 16:59
Yeah, it was more like vocal coaching. Looking back on it now. And being older, what I would say is it was more for learning how to beef up your book for auditions. Okay,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 17:10
so giving you more audition options. Yeah,
Jacob Starks 17:14
giving you more material and being there to help you learn the material.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 17:18
Yeah. Okay. So it’s very unusual for someone who’s had your career, and especially where you’re at right now, to not have had formal training. So what I’m curious to know, is one, have you ever felt that it’s held you back? And two, have you run into vocal health problems, or sustained any vocal pathologies as a result of not knowing how to handle certain situations as a professional performer?
Jacob Starks 17:52
It’s a really good question, actually. Okay, I would say, Yes, I do think that it’s held me back. Because of where I am now. I can only think, and like retrospectively where I could be had I had the training that most people have. That’s my initial thought. That’s my gut reaction. Yes. But at the same time, I want to say no, because maybe this isn’t meant to be this, like, obviously. Maybe I wouldn’t be where I am, if I had, you know, because then because because my story is so all over the place. I feel like I would have been on that same path that a lot of people go down where it is so strict on what goals you have set up and how they are meant to be achieved. And I think because that first goal was never really achieved. I’ve always found roundabout ways to get what I want. Or where does that make sense?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 18:56
Yes, it does. Yeah, but what about vocal health issues or pathologies? Have you ever had any?
Jacob Starks 19:04
No, I’ve never had any nodule symptoms or anything like that. The closest that I’ve I’ve ever come to is fatigue. I’ve had voice fatigue, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary for a performer who’s singing as much as I have been. Yes. No, I haven’t had
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 19:20
it. Yeah. And I’m seeing you. I’ve watched you perform a number of times. And you do some crazy stuff onstage. I’ve heard you sing Prince better than Prince sings. I’ve heard you sing repertoire that is out of this world and really highly demanding and everything from pop, rock. Yeah, musical theatre, big ballads. I’ve heard you sing across everything that one can think of, and I think knowing you and and having watched you through your career Your over the last few years and your growth as a vocalist. you’re somewhere where I think, yeah, vocal training may have helped you become more sustainable, but you’ve sustained what you’ve done. But I think not having had training has made you feel us, you actually are not scared to try something and you don’t get in your own way of, if I do this, I might hurt my voice, like, you come very much from an emotional or primal place where you have a story to tell. And it comes from there. And that’s why I think you have what I called the it or that X factor, which is so cliche I’m sorry that I use that. But for want of a better word. But you do not get in your own way, you actually will sing everything and anything. And when you say you’re a tenor, I’ve heard you sing baritone notes. And I’ve heard you sing higher than a tenant where you’ve gone into falsetto. I’ve heard you sing everything. And you are not afraid to do so.
Jacob Starks 21:12
Yeah. And you know what, it’s great that you mentioned that because I have an ex who I met while I was working in Japan back in 2016. And he had just come from full time in Australia. And this was his first job was working at Universal Studios in Japan. And because he had just come from all of that formal training, the way he approached work, and it was so he was he was honestly, I think he was getting in his own way. And what he was doing was so methodical, because he had been taught that he had to do things a certain way. He wouldn’t allow any room for adaptation, and a real world situation where sometimes you have to be able to adapt, and maybe learn a song a different way or maybe perform the song a different way. He really struggled to allow himself to do that. Because he had he was green, so green and just come fresh out of full time. And was like no, this is that this is what they said it is to be professional. And I was sat back in my like 20s 26 years watching him going, Oh, but it would be so much easier for you if you just let that go. Let it go. Yeah, like you’re claiming that you have that’s going to be your foundation. Sure. But Breathe, breathe into the work, I think
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 22:34
yes. And there’s that idea of getting in your own way. And also that perfectionism that a lot of that training, unless it’s perfect, and never gonna be good. Yes. Whereas you’re very much the storyteller. And you sing really well being like you sing better than most people who are fully.
Jacob Starks 22:57
Don’t get me wrong, I am a perfect perfectionist myself, I am very hard on myself. And we all performers are all creatives who use their their instruments, their bodies, as their art form are all super critical of themselves. But I like Yeah, it’s like you said I would I would much rather the audience feel what I’m trying to convey. Then them hear me seeing more forward and less less back or seeing it how the paperwork says you’re meant to do it. I would much rather than feel it, then.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 23:33
Yes. Yeah, that makes sense. Yes. And I think that is definitely the point of difference with you. And that’s what I’ve always gauged from you is that power that you have you totally immerse yourself in the repertoire that you’re performing. And the audience’s gravitate to you in that because they can feel what you’re feeling. And that’s what I’ve always felt as someone that’s, that’s watched you in that performance mode. So it’s very interesting. I’ve had no formal training, other than for lessons that were like, more like vocal coaching. You didn’t finish your college. You didn’t graduate?
Jacob Starks 24:19
No, I did not graduate
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 24:22
Jacob Starks 24:24
Okay, so I was 22. I was in my last year of college, so I should have been finishing up but I also hate school. I wasn’t doing well in my other courses because college is more than just especially for a theatre performer is more than just theatre. You still have to go and take biology and out. You still have to go take all those classes. I was not taking those classes I was sleeping and going to dance class. or going to my acting vocal dialect class. You know what I mean? I was doing that instead of going to my other classes. And by my senior year, I still had, I think it was 19 credits left in my degree that I needed to finish. And that’s, that’s, that’s about another year worth of, of schooling. And I said, no,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 25:24
no. Computer says, No.
Jacob Starks 25:28
I thought to myself, I am not going to get a job. As a accountant, I’m not going to get a job as a therapist, I’m going to be a performer. And so if that’s what I’m going to do, then I should take what I’ve gotten, because all of my training has come from college, I always tell people this, I look back on those years as that was my training, my four years in college from 19 to 22 years old. Those are my those are my training years. And so I took that, and my fiancee at the time, was like, well, let’s go, let’s go out because he graduated Good for him. He was like, let’s go and audition. Let’s go start auditioning then. So I was like, Yeah, you know what, I feel confident. I have someone here with me supporting me that’s like, and my family were also very supportive this whole time. Because they believed that this was what I was meant to do. So they were like, Yeah, okay, go for it. They didn’t even go to college. So they were like this, you did four years.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 26:35
We got a kid that you didn’t graduate, at least. Our son went to college.
Jacob Starks 26:41
And so we moved, we took a trip to Orlando, Florida and auditioned for Disney World, at the parks there. And I got it. That was my first job. It was to be a dancer and the festival of The Lion King Show in animal kingdom. That’s the very first professional job I ever got out of school after the four years of training.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 27:06
Jacob Starks 27:07
Was that a good job? Oh, it was. There’s so many mixed feelings. There’s so many mixed feelings. It was a great job, I think was a great first job. The audition was really intense, and made me really thinks that it was going to be like everything that everyone was saying that the entertainment businesses like those auditions are, like, gruelling, and there’s like 200 people there and they cut it down. They make so many cuts. And so that’s what it was. And granted it was Disney World. So of course there were a lot of people. But fast forward, not many other auditions have been like that. And I I loved dancing for hundreds and 1000s of people a day. Wow. That gave me my first like, like satis like soul satisfying moments. You know what I mean? As a performer being on the stage and seeing that many people there because they love this they love entertainment.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 28:05
People love Disney. Yeah, people love Disney
Jacob Starks 28:07
is feel good. And it’s quality entertainment all the time. I’m like, I can’t I can’t deny them for that. I they have their own issues with employee employees satisfaction rate job inspection. Yeah, they have their own issues with that, but it’s always really great. It just so happens though, that I didn’t last very long.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 28:30
I know why shall I tell the audience so show you
Jacob Starks 28:36
Yeah, can you can you tell them you can tell them okay,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 28:40
people Jacob was fired. Oh my gosh show on Broadway now. It’s okay. We have a happy ending here as well. But it’s not the only job he’s been fired from. Do you want to tell people why you keep getting fired?
Jacob Starks 29:07
Okay. So Disney was the first job I got fired from I also went over to Universal Studios in Orlando as well was like go from that job. And I eventually like I mentioned earlier in 2016 I started working for Universal Studios in Japan. Unfortunately it was like go from that job because I have this thing where my time management skills are not something that I brag about. They aren’t the great K ik I like to think that I’ve changed in the past. I I was late a lot. I didn’t know how to be on time.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 29:57
That is so weird, isn’t it I’m sorry
Jacob Starks 30:03
that I’ve had with the career that I’ve had. I’ve been fired.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 30:07
Haven’t you heard of like alarms on your phone? And you can even there’s even a snooze button if you really want to use that.
Jacob Starks 30:19
But here’s the thing. So I and I, and I’ve read, I’ve read somewhere, I can’t, I don’t know where I read it. And I don’t remember exactly what it said. But it said something to the effect of a lot of times that people who struggle with time management are people who are super creative, and very good people. Their minds are geared to create things and do things. And so it’s hard for the that part of their brain to be as strong as the others.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 30:54
Okay. I haven’t read that. But I just want to know, did your mum write that somewhere?
Jacob Starks 31:06
No, she was just so bad. She hates that those she hates those those moments like, there’s, this isn’t like my gosh, yeah, I but, but yeah, I’m very happy about it.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 31:24
Okay. Now, I see when you told me all this, I was so shocked. Because to me, I look at you as someone who’s highly disciplined. When you’re on stage, you are such a professional perform like us professional in every single way from your grooming everything attention to detail, I can see that work. People other people wouldn’t, because they’re not in our industry that are watching. But I can appreciate the attention to detail and your professionalism. Now, I also know having been twice on a ship where you’ve been performing. You also very disciplined in terms of I don’t ever really see you going out drinking with the cast. I don’t ever see you really roaming around the ship too much. You seem to keep very much to yourself. I don’t couple of times I’ve seen you on a shore excursion or disembarking the ship. But while I’ve been on the ship, I don’t see you floating around, you seem to really kind of stick to yourself. You seem very disciplined in that area. So the fact that you have time management problems was really astounding to me. And when I asked my daughter Ashley, about your time, she said, I guess mum. She said, Jacob is always late. I
Jacob Starks 32:57
don’t know why or what it is. You know, I’ll tell you what it is. I hate and I’ve always struggled with authority and rules. My whole life. hate hate hate rules. Okay. And being on time is a huge rule. Right?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 33:16
Well, it’s very important because keep a job to start with.
Jacob Starks 33:22
Right? You’re 100%? Right. So I think that’s where it all really stems from is it’s a huge rule. And I hate rules. And I hate being told what to do. And so when when someone tells me I have to be somewhere or do something at a certain time. I’m like, Okay, I will be there at exactly that time, then. Yes. Because most people always say five minutes early is on time and on time is late. No, I don’t agree. I think on time is on time. I can I I strive and this is probably why it always backfires is I always strive to get there exactly what I need to be. I don’t like to be there early, because then I’m just sitting around and I’m bored. And I don’t have anything to do. So I’m just sitting and I’m a
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 34:08
waste of time. Yeah.
Jacob Starks 34:12
Yeah, we come back and be a little socially shy. And so I’m not like, I’m not waking up at 10am to go and like, have a grand old time at work before I go and actually do my job. So I just I’m really just sitting there wasting my time. Yeah. And because of that, I fail at being on time because you can’t really ever be exactly on time. You’re either always going to be early or late. And so it usually ends up being because I want to be on time that I’m actually late.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 34:47
All right. Okay, well, proudly, you survived your ship contracts. You didn’t get fired from those
Jacob Starks 34:56
because I learned my lesson. From the last time that I got fired, because when I got fired from Japan, I was honestly devastated. Oh, and I vowed to really work on myself and do better. And I have I haven’t been I haven’t been late enough. Because Ashley can say she can verify I just am a little late sometimes. But I have not been late enough that it has caused an issue. Like, so I started, then I made it after Japan, which is where I was fired from and why I was seeking a job. I made it through my first ship contract. Yes.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 35:35
So you were performing in the production shows as a vocalist. And in your last contract on Celebrity, beyond, which is where I saw you. That was July last year, July 2022. You said to me, I am going to go live in New York, and I’m going to audition for musical theatre productions on Broadway. And okay, so you’ve done it. Let’s talk about Broadway. How did that come about? Like to be in a show on Broadway? Because you literally did it in the matter of months? Do you have to have an agent to perform on Broadway and be part of the Union? What are the rules and regulations? In terms of auditioning for Broadway?
Jacob Starks 36:30
I’m so happy to talk about this. Because I am 32 years old. I’ll be 33 in April. And I’ve been working professionally since I was 22. So that’s 10 years. That’s 10 years I’ve been working professionally. Yeah. And in those 10 years, never had an agent. And I was getting jobs, losing jobs, but get jobs all on my own. And in pretty great capacities working for giant corporations, entertainment, value through the roof and everything that I was doing. And like I said, all without an agent. Now, fast forward to me coming to the end of my last ship contract on this liberty beyond that you that you saw me on, I just had this feeling that if I really wanted to make it in a large metropolitan city like this, I would need help. And beyond just needing help. Being in the industry for 10 years, I was a little tired of doing it all on my own. Yes. Hustling. Yeah. And so I kind of said, You know what, I, I would rather hire somebody to do the work for me. And so, I was telling everyone like, Okay, I think I’m gonna move to the city and get an agent and see how that works out. I left the ship in July, and I hadn’t applied or reached out to anyone, by the way. And I was doing a production of Kinky Boots in New Orleans for a really good friend of mine. And I got an message from from someone on Instagram, saying that they were an agent. And they had seen me on the celebrity beyond and wanted to know if I had representation or if I was interested in looking for representation. And I was like, Oh, who What? Are you kidding me? Like how could the universe not be on my life? This is amazing. It is amazing. And so I said Funny enough, I have just been telling everyone the left for the last like, two months that I’m gonna go try and find an agent. And here you are in my lap. And so I signed with UI, a talent agency, who has been incredible to work with so far. One of their main missions and goals is to represent minorities and LGBTQ plus performers who don’t usually always get the the spotlight or their agents don’t usually push for them and certain areas because they are of a minority race, or they are of some sort of minority. And so one of their really huge missions has been to be that agency that pushes people in those in those areas that they don’t normally wouldn’t normally go to. And we’ve been working together since August. Yeah, is when I speak with them. We’ve been working together since August, and after working together for what I get this and in November. So from August, August to November, I booked my first job with them. And that first job was what I’m doing right now Aladdin, Aladdin on Broadway.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 39:58
It is so incred The ball. So incredible and congratulations really well deserved, even though you’ve been fired twice he didn’t. And she only had bought formal singing lessons with a vocal coach who taught songs.
Jacob Starks 40:17
To the to the, to the question of do you need an agent? I, that is one of the most difficult questions I think, to answer as a performer. But being on both sides of the spectrum of the coin, I have worked without an agent. And I’ve worked with an agent. I’ve gotten jobs without an agent. And now I’ve gotten jobs with an agent. Whether or not you need an agent, in order to make it in this industry depends on two things I think are the most important what you want to do and where you want to do it.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 40:53
Yes. Because from what I understand, to actually be able to audition on Broadway, isn’t there some sort of union organisation you have to be a part of you can’t just go and audition?
Jacob Starks 41:08
Well, anyone can audition for a musical. Let’s say the audition is for rent to the musical. Anyone can audition for that musical. If it’s going if it’s going on Broadway, anyone can still audition. However, the casting company for that production will hold auditions for equity performers,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 41:26
people who already have one. Yes, equity performance,
Jacob Starks 41:29
but then they will also hold auditions for that same musical for performers who are non equity. So they, they split it up into different categories, because I was a non equity performer auditioning for Aladdin, which is an equity Broadway musical. And I got it. So it’s not like you can’t audition for for Broadway if you’re not equity. But it usually means that you as a performer, you’ve been in the business to the standard, and then the quality that they’re going to be looking for. You probably know someone that they’ve already worked for worked with. I think those are the only reasons really why they they split it up that way.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 42:15
Yes. So is that then based on what you’ve just said? Is it who you know? Because there seems to be you hear all these hard luck stories about Broadway. And there’s movies written and musicals written about the hard luck stories on Broadway, where people get knocked back out and knocked back? So is it then that it’s who you know? And are some of the shows already, like pre cast? Oh, that’s dirty question. Isn’t it?
Jacob Starks 42:53
Okay. I think, yes. It is who you know. I think in summary, it’s all of it. It’s not, it’s never it’s never one thing. It’s never you. If you have an agent, it’s gonna happen. It’s never it’s never just that it’s never Oh, well, I know the assistant choreographer, so it’s gonna happen. It’s never, it’s never that cut and dry. It’s everything in conferencing, having an agent in New York City, one of the biggest audition cities in the world. Yes. Knowing someone that’s already done, the production that you’re auditioning for helps, because they could put in a nice word to the people who’s going to be in the room at the audition with you. So I think I think it’s all in one, honestly. Because that’s how it worked for me. I had an agent, one of my great friends that I was doing Kinky Boots with, he was the director for Kinky Boots, was the was in the original cast of Aladdin. And I told him, I submitted my stuff to the show. And he was like, Oh, my gosh, why didn’t you I, I should be gone and tell us telling someone that you’ve been through auditioning, they should see you and blah, blah, blah. And so he did. So that that helps. Yes. Oh my gosh, that’s that’s what I mean by it’s all of it. And so him I think even just his name being attached to my name already put, shined a different light on my face when I walked into the room. So I it’s it’s very important, I think, in these sort of situations is to be as authentically yourself as possible. You know what I mean? In any situation. I’m, I’m, if I hadn’t been on the journey that I had been, I would have never met Donald, I would have never like I would have never been on Celebrity cruise lines for that agent to see me. And those two two things that were choices that in the past had led me to those points were part of how I got to where I am so being as authentically and horrible with time management Without then being as authentically myself is what has really, I think set me aside from everyone else who is trying to be cookie cutter perfect on paper.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 45:12
Yeah, because a lot of people move to New York. They start working as, you know, waiters, waitresses, whatever it is waiting tables in diners and restaurants. But you move there because you had a gig. Well, yeah. That is so amazing. So when you talk about the audition process, what did you have to do to audition?
Jacob Starks 45:41
For Aladdin? Specifically? Yes, there was a call that went out on to Playbill, which everyone knows who auditioned for musicals, you know, about playbill.com, you can go in, they put up auditions all the time, I had seen that the audition for Aladdin told my agent about it said that I’m going to submit and put you down for my reference or point of contact. It was the a dance call audition self tape for I think it was maybe maybe even just like 1520 seconds of a piece of the choreography from the show. I submitted it. And within I want to, I want to say it was maybe like, a week, week and a half, my agent got back to me and said that they contacted them and asked if I could fly up to New York for or make it to the New York for the an in person callback, audition. And I was like, Well, I’m in Miami. So and the end, the callback audition was three days later, after my agent had gotten back to me. And so I booked a flight for 24 hours. I landed that night, went to the audition that morning, and then flew back that night. And at the the callback audition, the casting director was there. Tara Rubin, casting was there, the music director was there. The dance captain was there. And I they had a reader as well, I just don’t remember if that person was who they weren’t. Those were the people that were in the room. So the casting team was there and the company team Oh, and to say when one of the stage managers from the show, right? So the first thing we did was dance, there were two groups of men. And they split us up, I think it’s it was probably 14 Each and each group. And we learned Luckily, the same choreography that they taught on the self tape audition. So that’s why it was I think more so a callback audition for me, just to like see me in person doing the material. And I did well, I believe, well, that’s not true. Actually, we got to do it twice, we got to do it twice the first time sleigh. Second time. I like stumbled over my leg at some point or something like that. And so I kind of wobbled but saved it still killed it. And then after this, they put us back into the holding room and then asked us called out names to stay. And then if you stayed they asked you to prepare a small excerpt from the show, which was the same again, same as the self tape. The before I came, you have to sing part of the song as well, it’s Arabian Nights from the show. I sang it for them. He asked me to sing it again. With this audition, there was an option up or you could just keep it you know, plain and simple. And I chose to keep it plain and simple. Because I didn’t want to take I didn’t want to take a risk and it failed on me while I had just done such an amazing. So play. I played it a little safe. And he said can you do it again? But this time can you do the option up? And so I asked him, I said I beat myself. I said listen, I can do it. But is it okay if I if I like flip up to it like if I don’t just hit it like glide up to it? Yeah. Yeah, I like to call it a backboard. I all I love a good backboard off of a note to go higher. And so I said, Can I do it that way? And he was like, Well, I prefer if you did it flat on and I was like oh, just go straight into it. Okay, if that’s what you want, I can do it. And so I did it and it was fine. It wasn’t the best but it was fine. And then he said okay, now can you just sing along with the piano the guys just kind of like go up some scales to see your range and so I went all the way up to the note that he was looking at that he wanted me to sing at the end he was like okay, so you can obviously do it. It’s just not what you do consistently. I was like no, no, I would much rather seeing a I’m not sure this thing. An A consistently than a B consistently does. You know what I mean? For me my right when it starts to get to the BCS, depending on the day, it might not be there. But I can pry sistent Lee singing a. And so he was like, okay, so obviously you can do it. It’s just not what you’re consistent, consistent with. And I was like, No, I’d much I’m much more consistent with an A. And they were like, Okay, great. Now we’d like for you to read this side with our reader who’s here. And a funny story. They actually didn’t point out to the reader to me, as if I should be directing all of my attention to that person. When we started, I was looking like I was in an audition, looking straight above their heads perform. Yes, before we get to them, and they as soon as I started, they stopped me. They stopped me. They were like, she’s right there. I was like, Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Hi, my name is Jacob. It’s so nice to meet you. I’ve just like completely been ignoring you this whole time. Hi. Okay, let’s do this. And so then we they all we all laugh together. And we continued on with the sides. And it was it went well. Afterwards, I went and got my things and gather them outside. And as I was gathering my things, one of the casting team members mentioned that the callbacks are meant to be happening on the Thursday, there’s another callback for a tap is going to be happening on Thursday. And one of the perform one of the guys auditioning was like, I need to know now if I’m going to be needed for the callback. And I was like, Oh, my God, actually, that’s so true. I need to let them know. I said, Hey, just so you know, I’m flying back to Miami in like, three hours. If I need to stay for Thursday, can you let me know as soon as possible? And they were like, Okay, great. It was still taking long enough that I went and grabbed my things from from my friend’s house, started walking, making my way to the airport, I get a call from my agent who says that the the team, that company, everyone who was there has decided that they aren’t going to do callbacks anymore. And that I am now in the like Final runnings or final considerations for for the job. And I was like, okay, oh my God, that’s great. This is the first like, This is amazing. first audition I just went to and I’m already like being highly considered for it. Amazing. And then maybe five days later, I got the call that I got it. So that was the
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 52:24
so amazing about auditioning when, okay, so your role within the show is as a swing, so tell us what a swing does
Jacob Starks 52:34
so and more specifically a vacation swing. Because there are two types of swings, there are standby swings, and what I am a vacation swing, standby swings are there at the show every single night. With the rest of they sign up, they sign in and show up when the rest of the cast show up. Just in case something happens last minute, and they need someone to go on. So that’s why That’s why they’re called standbys. Yes, I am a vacation swing. So I will I after my contract that just ended yesterday, while I was to learn and perform the show to get comfortable with it, I am now on a on call status. So I will be contacted with contracts as they as needed. So my job as a vacation swing is to know all of the male ensemble tracks in the show. There are how many there are 12
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 53:29
So you have to know 12 parts well called roll well shows.
Jacob Starks 53:34
That’s how I think about it, because each again is doing doing their own
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 53:38
dancing. So singing and dancing. Yes. 12 rolls? Well.
Jacob Starks 53:44
12 Yes. 12.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 53:49
How do you manage that? How do you learn that? Oh, okay, that doesn’t.
Jacob Starks 53:58
Not that it’s not positive. It’s hard to explain.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 54:03
I what goes on in your head. All anybody rehearse for that?
Jacob Starks 54:09
Question. All the content is what’s what’s going what’s what’s going through my head. I am constantly thinking about the show, I am constantly thinking about the choreography that this that this one track, let’s say let’s call him the green track. The one choreography that the green track knows as well as the one the choreography that the blue track knows. So those are like, that’s what’s on my mind all the time is the show. It’s 12 roles. But the saving grace sometimes is that maybe it’s just for this one song, or this one moment in the show. You’re an opposite to a show track that you already know. So it’s not like I’m having to completely learn a new dance in some moments of the show. So there are some there are bits of relief. Because I know when people hear 12 tracks they’ll Oh, my mind. I don’t I’m surprised my mind hasn’t melted. But
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 55:04
my mind hurts. Like,
Jacob Starks 55:07
it’s been, it’s been the most amazing challenge. And I think coming from doing cruise ships, which was another bigger challenge for me it being my first time being a pure vocalist, a singer. And then now doing this, I’m so grateful for the like, the chance to like, push myself even further. And still, at this point in my career, I’m still pushing and it’s amazing.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 55:33
As a vacation swing, then does that mean one night you might be blue? The next night? You might be green? So it’s changing every night? Yes.
Jacob Starks 55:43
So I yeah, just I want to say last week, there was a put in rehearsal for one of the performers who were coming on as a genie for that week he was filling in. So we had to put in rehearsal for him, I was doing a green track that day. And then the next day, I went on into the show as blue track. And then the next day in rehearsal, I was learning the purple track. And then the next day I was I was concentrating and shadowing, as they say, trailing the black track. So it is literally every single day. And it depends on who calls out, or who is going, who’s taking a personal day, or who’s taking a vacation. Who’s sick. Like right now, there’s a dancer who, who we think is injured. So he’s going to be out for a while. And in those sorts of situations, they would call in the vacation swing, because at the same time that this person is now injured, there are people who have COVID And so they’re out. And so some of the standbys are already fill in. But that’ll be just for however long that that is. And then, because of my vacation swing, when I’m done with that contract that week long contract, if I wanted to, I could take a contract working on a gig in New York for a few days, and a lot of reaches out and I am unavailable, I can politely decline and say I’m so sorry, I’m already taking right. So that’s where vacation swing aspects are a little different from the other swings, I’m not on a like year long contract, they come they come and go, they can be anywhere from one day to three months.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 57:26
Well, I bet
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 57:29
you must be tripping people over as they leave the venue. The theatre, just so you get to get to perform the next.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 57:39
Oops, sorry, I didn’t.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 57:42
I didn’t. Chi that’s a shame. I’ll have to work the next six months. Yeah, I’m
Jacob Starks 57:48
so sorry. I’ll cover you don’t worry. I’ll cover it. I’ll cover it. Dean.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 57:52
I’ll be there. I’ll be there.
Jacob Starks 57:54
You need me to take you home. I can take you home.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 57:57
Okay, that is a lot. That is. That sounds really, really hard work. How is the workload for you when you’re performing? Okay, how many shows a week? Is it that the show is on
Jacob Starks 58:12
currently it’s on for eight had to count to show days and then for one show days.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 58:27
Okay. Well, how do you deal with that workload? I mean, aside from the mental fatigue, because you have to remember so much. How do you deal with the workload yourself? How do you take care of yourself and what do you do to stay in that peak condition?
Jacob Starks 58:47
I do what I’ve always done and it’s what Ashley a new you’ve noticed, and when you were on the cruise ships, when I’m not at work, I try to re centre myself re just relax and be with myself as much as I possibly can. I call it resetting just because it when you put yourself in those sorts of environments, there’s so much that you’re taking on that even sometimes you don’t even realise that you’re taking on peaceable people’s personalities and and though even just the work itself, that through through your mind and through your through your body. I do a lot of nothing. I do a lot of nothing like today was the day one day off that you get on Broadway Monday on Mondays and I woke up I put on some really chill music. I opened the window to get some fresh air and I just laid in my bed listening to music. I eventually got up and like brush my teeth and wash my face like I just really take care of this because it’s the only reason I I am doing what I’m doing like I’m using this to yes, to make
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:00:06
money to your body and mind, your soul, your spirit.
Jacob Starks 1:00:09
It’s why it’s why I don’t go drink. It’s why it’s why I don’t drink the night before. I have to perform. That’s why on cruise ships, I’m out of time, I’m not out at the bars or down with everyone. After a show, if I drink, I’m going to lose my voice. If I drink the night before a show, the next day I wake up, I could be dehydrated, I could have a headache. You know, there’s so many so many factors that go into it. And so in a gruelling schedule like this on Broadway, where it’s eight shows eight shows a week, I think it’s even more important than to like, take a hot bath, go sit with a face mask on. Don’t talk to anybody. I you know what I mean? Like I removed myself from anyway, I’m not talking for a couple hours in the morning when I first wake up. I eat when I make myself feel good.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:00:59
So And what about once you get to the theatre? Do you guys have a vocal captain or a music director that warms you up as an ensemble? You do your own warm up?
Jacob Starks 1:01:13
This is something that I discovered when I got my job on Broadway. Because and you know what? Granted?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:01:23
That was a no by the way. That was a no sorry. Yes.
Jacob Starks 1:01:26
I cancer is that was a no. Yeah, there is no, there is wow.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:01:29
So nobody warms up. You don’t warm up together? Because even on the ship, you were warming up and you’re doing physical warm up. Yeah, physical warm up and vocal warm up and the vocal captain would warm you up, or lead the warm up. And on Broadway, there’s nothing it’s every man for himself. Yes.
Jacob Starks 1:01:50
Because and this is why we’re all professionals. We’re showing up, right, we’re showing up to work and so can also being it is late at night, usually when the shows happen. So you have all day at home. It’s not like on a cruise ship where you’re, you’re working. When you’re on the ship, regardless of if you’re on the stage or not been on the ship. We also have things where we have to do you have to have tech rehearsals and things like that. And so yes, we there’s a lot there’s a lot more factors that go into crew shipping. And so I understand and really agree with group warm ups and things like that. But here, it’s like, well, no, this is this is your job. When you when a person at the bank goes to work, they aren’t they aren’t coming to work and then getting dressed. already dressed before they come. Okay. Yeah, that’s so that’s why that’s what I’ve noticed. I haven’t. Yeah, I haven’t had a physical or vocal warmup. But like, by someone since I was on the ship this whole time,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:02:57
do you? Do you warm up, though?
Jacob Starks 1:02:59
No, I haven’t warmed up, Oh, you don’t warm up. Like I used to not like I
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:03:05
used to be cool. And so therefore you wouldn’t even call down because I know on the ship you didn’t call down that was something that I introduced the past to know.
Jacob Starks 1:03:16
I do a quick because my voice is usually warm enough. And I’m not singing lead principal songs like I granted I’m a ensemble member when I’m on the stage. I think that would change my approach if I was in a principal role, where you are going to hear me for sure. I’m swinging into ensemble roles. So what I do is, since it’s at the end of the day that I start singing, I’m talking throughout the day, so I know my voice is warm enough that before maybe 15 minutes before the show, I’ll go backstage and do trills and sirens and certain things that little very quick, very quick warm ups that I know I can do to get my voice to where it needs to be to in order to thrive. But as far as like what I’m used to doing, where I sit for 15 minutes doing an actual warmup, making sure i i get my alliteration in, I get my breath, my breath work in make certain parts of my voice you know, I was doing all of that very, very much in a different way than I am now where it’s like, you aren’t near me. So I’m just going to go backstage 15 minutes before do what I need to do, and then go out and kill it. As far as as far as stretching though, as a dancer. No, I definitely am definitely stretching the entire time as well. While I’m back, like I my body has to be warm enough. I can’t. I’m 32 I can’t I can’t do the same thing with my voice that I came with my body. Yes. Is COVID
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:04:49
still impacting the shows on Broadway? I think
Jacob Starks 1:04:55
it depends on the venue. It is a roller coaster. It is always up and down. And we just came from Adelaide and we just came from a red zone, which was an even worse a, what they call a five and five, which means five people tested positive within five days, which put us in a, a protocol that required each of the performers to test every day before they came in. Because before then, depending on the state of the state, we could be in a yellow zone in the state or red zone in the state. If it’s a red zone in the state, you test at the show twice a week, one at the beginning and one at the end. The city or the state is in a yellow zone, then you only have to test once the week, the first day of the week, the working week.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:05:45
Yes. Have you had to close the theatre down at any time while you’ve been in the cast? So the shows have all gone ahead.
Jacob Starks 1:05:54
Yes. And the shows are surviving.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:05:57
And you talked about that someone had an injury before? Which by the way you didn’t cause I did not make
Jacob Starks 1:06:07
the record show?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:06:11
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:06:14
With the theatres with the production companies. Do they have allied services for performance? So do they have a speech pathologist? Do they have an en t? Do they have a vocal coach? Do they have like a a team of people to help performers within that past? If they happen to run into vocal health problems? Do they have people like manual therapists that kind of thing.
Jacob Starks 1:06:45
So what the this show itself provides, because there are two separate entities at work here that I’m going to talk about, the show itself provides physical therapy because in the house in the building, they they have a physical physical therapist that you can book appointments with at any time. So that is what the theatre and the show itself is doing to help the performers. Now outside of that, it’s the union equity union is what would then take over to take care of end appointments or injuries like how if someone has actually hurt and needs more than just physical therapy sessions to like, relax the muscles or something. So if you’re a part of the Union, they you can reach out and ask for Hey, I’m feeling this way I need this and they’ll provide you with who they who they work with who was accepted by their union. Funny story. I’m not in the union. I I opted to not to join, right
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:07:47
okay. So if something happens to you like if you have a vocal pathology or you have a physical injury, you have to go and find your own health Yes, I’m other than the physiotherapist or the physical therapist as you call them in the US that you have in the building. But the poor singers if they run into problems there’s no nobody really other than the union help. Yeah. Okay. With your moving from the ship to New York, because you’re on the ship for a few years working on different ships within the same cruise line that that’s celebrity and I know that their conditions are pretty good compared to a lot of cruise ships. What’s it been like for you then how have you adjusted moving to New York?
Jacob Starks 1:08:43
It is so it’s so nice it’s i i just thoroughly enjoy being able to disassociate from work on a cruise ships you can’t do that
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:08:58
because no you
Jacob Starks 1:09:00
live where you work. I think living in a city is tough already. It’s very cold especially right now. It’s so big there’s so it’s so dense and dense at the same time. Like there’s so much happening but I thoroughly enjoy that like if there’s there’s an energy that you can feel here that really I think perpetuates its stereotype and not being in crews crucial bland. I think there’s a yeah, there’s no there’s a world of difference from being Yes, being surrounded by by the same thing over and over. And then being able to step out step outside of it. I can look back at it now retrospectively and think how, how it has helped me and propelled me to where I am now. But I’m so grateful to be where I am.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:09:55
Yes, because on the ship, you have everything taken care of you If you don’t have to take care of yourself, you have accommodations paid for your food is paid for. Everything is supplied. But all of a sudden, now you’re in New York, and you’ve got to go and find your own apartment pay for your own apartment, you have to pay for your own food. So you have to learn how to budget money, as well.
Jacob Starks 1:10:22
And it’s expensive here. It’s so expensive. Exactly,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:10:25
exactly. Because they talk about the broke performers on Broadway, the people are living on a shoestring budget. It’s true.
Jacob Starks 1:10:34
It is so very true. I can’t stress that enough. It is so very true. I think it’s really important for for anyone to know, like, I am making Broadway money, and it’s so amazing. But another huge difference from working on a cruise ship is there are taxes being taken out. And, and agent fees being taken out. And so regardless of how much how much of how amazing this property money is, I don’t get to see a lot of it. And so I am working, I am working from a lot less than what I originally anticipated. So I think it’s something that’s very, like a stereotype that needs to be like, taken seriously. Because if you aren’t prepared for for that you could be put in a situation where you don’t have a place here in the city. And it gets like I said, it’s very cold. It’s very harsh out here. So yes, it’s very Bible. Yeah. And I yeah, I love that challenge that I’ve been able to have here so far.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:11:41
Just to final few questions. And one thing that I want to touch upon with you, because you talked about minority groups. So in terms of inclusivity, diversity, equity belonging, as someone from a minority group, how have you felt being cast within a Broadway production? Do you feel supported and taken care of?
Jacob Starks 1:12:09
Yeah, I do. The very pure answer to that is so yes, I really do. I think it goes without saying, but there’s still work to be done. There’s always work to be done. I think, how my situation is so special, I think because I’m doing a Disney production Disney Theatre Group. And Disney has already so strong in inclusivity. So working for a company like that I’m the balance is a little a little better. In our case, I think we we have full Arabic and Middle Eastern principal performers doing Jasmine and Aladdin. I, when I found that out, it like touched my heart like I could, I could have cried because I’m coming I’m coming from a place where I when I worked in Orlando, at Disney, as inclusive as Disney is they were using white men and women to play these ethnic characters in the park. As long as they have good tan on where, whereas whereas here, I walked in the door, and there’s a like six foot five, Middle Eastern man with this giant smile on my face saying Hi, I’m Michael and I play Aladdin. I was like, Oh, yes, yes, yes. Yeah, we want to see this, this type of this type of work environment where the people like around me to my left one Japanese man me, mixed guy and to my to my right of Latino, a white man down the corner, like, so diverse. It’s been such a blessing to be a part of this specific show. I can’t speak for everywhere. Because like I said, there are places where I think we could still use improvement. However, I do see it.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:14:01
Yes. That’s so amazing to hear that you feel supported. You feel that there has been a shift forward in terms of that policy around minority groups. That’s amazing. So what’s next for Jacob?
Jacob Starks 1:14:18
Oh, I don’t know. I’m not sure what I know is what’s next for me. I want to I want to make it work here. I did the first part of getting here. And now I want to make it work. I am really interested in film and television work. And I know that it’s it’s done here. I know it gets done. So I’m honestly hoping now that I’m done with this first part of my Aladdin contract, I have a lot more free time, which means I have more audition time. So that’s what’s next. I
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:14:54
can’t sell film and TV as
Jacob Starks 1:14:57
as, as one thing that I want to do so much. I’ve always and I’ve always been like that there’s so much I want to do I want to do it all. And so I think that there’s never like an end goal. If that makes sense. There’s always going to be a next so yes, right now next I want to I want to be in a commercial. Yeah, I want to I want to I can see you doing now I want to see what I want to see what I can do on film and television.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:15:21
Amazing. And what advice would you give to emerging performers, anyone that wanted to be on Broadway? Now that you have some experience? Doing it yourself? Based on all your background other than be on time? Five,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:15:40
what would you advise,
Jacob Starks 1:15:42
I would say, be yourself, I think that that has been my lesson, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the choices that I made good or bad. And I don’t let those choices rule my, my world. I accept them, I own them. And I let my work. speak for itself. So let your work speak for itself. Know yourself. And when you go into a room, leave the desperation at the door, do what you love. Because if you bring if you bring the desperation into the room with you, they can feel it. Everyone can do it. So leave it at the door. Just be happy and prideful with who you are what you have. And it’ll work for you too.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:16:32
That’s amazing advice. I love that. We’re going to share links to if anyone wants to follow you on social media or find out more about what you’re doing, we’ll share your links. And it’s been such a pleasure having you on the podcast. I was really excited when you accepted my invitation. And hopefully, at this point of time I’m planning on being in Philadelphia, yes, at the end of May, early June. And I have a few days prior to going to the conference that I’m attending. And hopefully, if you’re still in the show, then I will come and watch you. I would
Jacob Starks 1:17:14
love to see you please do, please. Yes,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:17:17
I will do no, of course. Of course that’s kind of on my bucket list. So it’d be the last weekend of May hope to see you. Thank you in your show.
Jacob Starks 1:17:27
Thank you. podcast, I’m so happy that you reached out and wanted to talk to me about my journey because I have loved that you’ve been a part of that growth so much or been there been there for each of my I’d like defining moments, my first ship contract my last ship contract. And now you’re going to come hopefully and see me while I’m here. Of course.
Jacob Starks 1:17:50
Of course I will. You’ve been along the
Jacob Starks 1:17:53
ride with me. And so this has been I
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:17:54
have I have been a long part of that, that ride with you. And I feel very honoured and privileged that I have been able to do that. And to get to know you it’s been really special and, and you truly are remarkable. And I wish you all the very best in the future. And I’m sure all your dreams are going to come true because you deserving 100% So thank you for your time, Jacob, you’ve been really generous with your time and I will see you in May. All right.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:18:31
Thank you, Jacob. Bye.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:18:36
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