Jase Smith Sullivan, MFA in Acting and Directing, 2008
Executive Artistic Director, La Crosse Community Theatre
Jase recalls, “I cut my teeth on The Music Man, Oklahoma and those golden age shows” at Fort Lee Playhouse in Petersburg when it was still on the base. “Finding theatre at that age as an LGBT guy in a rural area saved my life.”
After receiving his BA in Theatre from William and Mary, Jase came to VCU. Noreen Barnes McLaine got him accepted mid-semester and later helped him land his first professional directing gig—Christmas with the Crawfords at Richmond Triangle Players where she was a board member.
Jase started directing shows at other local theatres while still at VCU. One of those was Firehouse Theatre, where he worked with former AD Carol Piersol, “Carol was my mentor and it meant a lot to me. I learned so much. It was the real start of my career.” While there, he also hosted shows by Stage B, which was co-founded by fellow alum Lucian Restivo (read his profile here).
Jase met his husband Terrence Sullivan, a digital creative strategist, “at a Halloween party and we were the only two not dressed up. We’ve been together ever since.” After about nine months together, Jase suggested Terrence audition for Rent, “I knew he had performed and had heard him singing in the shower.” He got cast and he ended up in many of Jase’s musicals.
After Jase signed on as AD at Firehouse he hired some of his VCU mentors as directors, including Noreen Barnes, Gary Hopper, David Leong and Dr Tawnya Pettiford-Wates. “It was a special experience to flip the script!”
They then spent some time in the Bay Area before moving back to Richmond in 2016 to help with Jase’s ailing mother. He also became Entertainment Manager at Kings Dominion, “that gave me a whole different aspect and I made national connections.” While in Richmond, they became parents of twins through a surrogate. Chase boasts, “They’re better than any award.”
When the opportunity at La Crosse Community Theatre came up, Jase “decided to climb back in the saddle. This opportunity was attractive because I’d never managed a performing arts center, which involves both sides of the house plus fundraising.” This Wisconsin theatre has two stages: a main stage where they produce five shows a season and a black box for more edgy work. They also produce a touring season for young audiences.
During COVID, they produced a radio play of Miracle on 34th Street at a drive in. He’s now planning a new season and working on grants and sponsorships. Thinking back to VCU, “They really taught me about professionalism and building your brand. How you treat people is more important than talent and that’s kept me successful all my life.”
Header image (clockwise from left): Jase and Terence at their wedding in San Francisco; Jase at a talkback of “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant” with Tony nominee playwright Kyle Jarrow; Jase with Anna K. Jacobs, the playwright of “POP! Who Shot Andy Warhol?” and Jonathan Larson Award winner
Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the September 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.