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Jennifer Caton

TheatreROCs, Center Stage at the JCC

Interview No. 38

THEATER DOOR for I Heart ROC!THEATER DOOR for I Heart ROC!

If you are talented and you work hard, you will eventually get the accolades and the praise you deserve. This saying goes for all aspects of life: good things come to those who wait.

What part of Rochester are you from?

Pittsford

What is your favorite part about Rochester living?

The theatre community--it’s lively! I also love that there’s a little bit of everything in Rochester. We have all the seasons, diverse dining options, theatre, wine tasting, and great shopping, and you can enjoy it all in one day! Theatre and culture-wise, there’s the Center Stage at the JCC, RPO (Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra), Rochester City Ballet, and more! Theatre is everywhere.

Do you have any favorite/secret spots?

I have two favorite spots: The CenterStage at the JCC and the Little Theatre. There are some exciting things coming up at the CenterStage at the JCC that readily comes to mind, there’s going to be a new, separate entrance for the theatre. With the 40th anniversary for the Center Stage at JCC season, they are opening the Lipson Lounge to encourage attendees to arrive early and enjoy a drink before the show. It would be great to see all of the theatres in Rochester gradually evolve into this type of atmosphere, where you can really make an evening of having drinks, meeting new people and seeing a show all in one spot. It would be fantastic to see more non-theatre goers starting to attend theatrical productions at the CenterStage at the JCC. We’re getting lots of people who don’t normally go to shows going to shows. Then there is the Little Theater, it is one of my favorites because it's a uniquely, independent movie house. It’s not a chain. It’s been around for years and has so much history. It’s the kind of place I can go to relax with my husband and feel like we’re on a date in NYC, even though you’re in Rochester!

Describe your dream Rochester day.

Sleeping in, walking our dog, Riley, in Schoen Place, and having breakfast at Village Bakery. Then on to downtown for one of M/Body's Barre where they donate your one-time class fee to a local nonprofit medical charity. After that, I’d go for a massage at the Del Monte Spa or a facial at Water Lilly Spa, grab a salad at Half Moon for lunch, and then catch a movie at The Little in the afternoon. That would be followed by shopping in the Wedge and Park Ave, dinner at Thali of India afterwards for the best Indian food in town, and then a show at any one of our fabulous local theatres! Afterwards, we’d grab a drink at TRATA on the rooftop patio overlooking Lake Riley and Cobbs Hill.

Do you have a favorite neighborhood?

NOTA! I like that you can go to Starry Nites and look into the art gallery and bakery down the street as well. I have always wanted to see a drag show at Edibles! There’s so much diversity in this neighborhood! You can always stop at Writers and Books, too, or get your hair and makeup done by Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Favorite restaurant?

The King and I! They have a variety of delicious and consistently great tasting Thai food there.

What is your personal coping mechanism for cold/gray weather?

In the cold months, I love to visit museums like RoCo, the Susan B. Anthony House, the Memorial Art Gallery, and the George Eastman Museum. It’s never cold or gray in any of those places because they’re so rich with history and cultural significance for Rochester! They boast nothing but vivid colors and lively paintings. I particularly love seeing the annual 6x6 exhibit at RoCo because I get to see my friends’ hard work on the walls!

What is your favorite Rochester memory?

Standing on the top of Capron Street Lofts during 4th of July fireworks! I’ve never been so close that you could see and feel the debris from the fireworks. There’s nothing like seeing the fireworks over the Freddie-Sue (Frederick Douglass/Susan B. Anthony) bridge! It’s a beautiful light show.

For me, that would be an evolution of Rochester theatre community that would spread awareness of all the great shows the local theatre community has to offer.

What makes Rochester unique?

Festivals, for one thing! Aside from the theatre and arts community, we have the Fringe Festival, Jazz Festival, High Falls Festival, Fairport Canal Days, the Clothesline Festival, Park Ave Fest, Lilac Festival, Corn Hill Festival, and Southwedge-Ucation--just to name a few!

The sense of community in theatre organizations isn’t the same in big cities as it is in Rochester. Even the willingness to volunteer is huge here, as opposed to any other places that I’ve lived. You just have to ask people to volunteer and people almost always say yes! Everyone always has this spirit of volunteering. It’s like having a family without having a family here!

What do you think could be improved?

Rochester Schools. My husband and I don’t have any kids, but we stay on top of the news. Without a good education, kids don’t experience as much culture. If they aren't experiencing a good education, they aren’t experiencing arts and culture. If we can somehow fix the situation with Rochester schools, then we could have more art and music in school. Rochester is the perfect place to learn about music and arts. It makes me extremely disappointed that the future of the arts community won’t survive without change.

If Rochester were a food, what would be it?

Pineapple, because it’s sweet and everyone here is so friendly. If you take a deeper look at some areas, you find tartness. Overall it’s sweet, but it has a hint of something else to it.

How did you get involved in TheatreRocs?

I’ve been involved for about 7 years now. I was working at Geva Theatre Center as Special Events/Donor Relations Coordinator and my boss at the time, Greg Weber, asked me to help out. I started helping during work and after leaving Geva, I continued to be involved. I was the VP from 2012-2016 and now I’ve stepped down and am a Special Events Chair for the CenterStage at JCC's 40th anniversary season.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to balance work, interests, and a personal life?

You find balance. Take a deep breath and look at your calendar; make sure you find time for family and friends, because in the end, you’re here on this planet because of them. I have to balance my passion for volunteering in theatre, my day job, my husband, my dog and home life. You make it work!

How does one thrive in Rochester?

If you are talented and you work hard, you will eventually get the accolades and the praise you deserve. This saying goes for all aspects of life: good things come to those who wait.

What type of impact do you hope theatre will have on the greater Rochester community in the next ten years?

There are a lot of changes on the horizon! For me, that would be an evolution of Rochester theatre community that would spread awareness of all the great productions the local theatre community has to offer. With the help of organizations like TheatreRocs and blogs such as RochesterOnStage and The Rochesteriat this word is definitely spreading. As a volunteer, my wish is to start seeing all of the seats filled with sold out shows, everywhere. I may work 40 hours a week in an office, but at nights and on the weekends, my life is theatre. The people are amazing-- so talented and creative! I feel fortunate to be able to stand by their side and work with them.

If you had to think about your ideal version of Rochester, what would it look like?

I think it would have a much more vibrant downtown. It seems like there are some great places right now, but they are separated from everything else. And yet, I’ve traveled all over the world and I still live here. Rochester is a pretty awesome place to be!

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The lovely Jennifer Caton was introduced to us by Calin Lawrence, our former contributor. She is the former VP of TheatreROCs, Special Events Chair for JCC CenterStage, and a great advocate for the local Rochester theatre and arts community. 

Interview by Emma Daitz

Thank you so much to the following people who made this interview possible: Photographer: Teri Fiske, Ciao Bella BoudoirTheatre Access: Ralph Meranto, Artistic Director at the CenterStage Theatre at JCC, Theatre Lighting: Marc Cataldi, Hair: Stryker Ostafew of Rock, Paper, ScissorsMake Up: Lindsay Marie of Rock, Paper, ScissorsFashion Stylist: Jonathan Sam