Drama alumnus Jeremy Skidmore revitalizes theatre in rural NC
After nearly 20 years directing and producing theatre all over the world, Jeremy Skidmore (Drama ’00) made an unconventional career move and returned back home to North Carolina.
Skidmore has had an impressive career that includes serving as Artistic Director of Theater Alliance in Washington, D.C., and at the Malibu Playhouse in California; Artistic Producer of the Source Festival in D.C.; Co-Founder and President of the Capital Talent Agency in D.C.; and as Co-Founder and Associate Artistic Director of the Worldwide Art Collective in Taiwan.
In 2017, Skidmore collaborated with Tom Osteen to co-found RhinoLeap Productions in Asheboro, North Carolina, where he serves as Artistic Director. RhinoLeap Productions operates as a non-profit with a two pronged mission to bring theatrical productions to towns across North Carolina as well as provide educational residencies to high schoolers in the state.
After years of working all over the world, why did you decide to come back to NC?
I grew up in North Carolina and always knew I would come back. It was never a question of if, but rather when. In 2016, I started dating the daughter of my high school drama teacher who I had known for most of my life. At the time, she was living in New York City and I was living in Los Angeles. I didn’t want to move to NYC and she didn’t want to move to LA, so she suggested moving back to North Carolina. I agreed immediately, moved back six months later, got engaged three months after that, and got married in November 2017. Now I hope I can contribute to the fabric of the arts in this state in any way I can.
Why do you feel it is important to grow the creative industry in NC?
Most state schools in North Carolina retain close to 80% of their alumni in NC after graduation. The School of the Arts retains about 25%. One of the main reasons so many graduates leave is that there are not enough professional opportunities in North Carolina to keep artists here. It is well documented that arts organizations are often the initial catalysts within revitalizing communities. As North Carolina continues to have one of the fastest growing populations of any state in the country, it makes sense that artistic opportunities are at the center of that growth. I hope to do my part to create jobs in our state that UNCSA alumni are eager to fill.
As North Carolina continues to have one of the fastest growing populations of any state in the country, it makes sense that artistic opportunities are at the center of that growth.
Do you currently collaborate with other UNCSA graduates?
This is a very, very long list! I have worked with Kelly Maxner, Mollye Maxner, Colin Hovde, Shirley Serotsky, Aubrey Deeker, Mando Alvarado, Joe Isenberg, Andrew Cissna, Erin Nugent, Elisheba Itoop and Chris Baine multiple times over the years.
And at RhinoLeap, I have worked with Chance Carroll, Cedric Mays, EJ Cantu, Ro Boddie, Chris French, Alex Hoeffler, Patrick Osteen, Chesley Polk, Rebecca Brinkley, Meagan Smith, Samuel Geoffrey, Mason Hensley, Noah Trimner, Patrick Calhoun, Emily Franks-North, Dorothy Austin-Harrell and Jacob Muehlhausen in the last year alone.
Why did you choose UNCSA?
I grew up in North Carolina, so UNCSA was an in-state option for me. This, combined with its reputation, made it by far the most attractive option of any conservatory in the country.
Share a significant memory and/or campus spot:
Of all the theaters I have ever worked in my entire career, I still think the de Mille is one of the most perfect theaters ever built.
Your current company is less than an hour from UNCSA, do you feel like this is an asset?
This is a huge asset. The school is generous with material support and assigning current students to design our shows. In many ways, it is as if I am directing shows on campus… they just happen to be in Asheboro instead.
Does what you do now connect to what you wanted to do when you graduated?
Having the opportunity within a community to use art as an economic engine, as a way to bring diverse people together, as a way to build empathy, as a way to shape innovative teaching methods with high school students, and a way to continue working with current UNCSA students is the culmination of every opportunity I have had in my career. I truly believe I have been working and preparing my entire life for the opportunity I have been given now.
What was your favorite performance you worked on at UNCSA?
Watching John Dillon direct “Pericles” with the class of 1997 was the moment I realized I wanted to be a director. He would talk to a group of actors and then the craziest things you could possibly fathom began to happen.
Did you have an influential faculty or staff mentor at UNCSA?
Gerald Freedman completely altered the course of my life, my mind and my heart.
Do you have any advice for current or prospective students?
For current students trying to decide where to go when they graduate: Those who have always dreamed of going to LA or NYC… go! Now is the best time. If you want to pursue film, television and theater, NYC is the only choice. If you are much more interested in film and television alone, LA is the best choice (because it’s more affordable than New York).
If after a few years you find yourself not getting work in the way that you had hoped, before giving up, look at other cities like Chicago, Atlanta, and D.C. They can offer much less overwhelming and more supportive communities to build a career in. Leaving NYC of LA for another market does not mean you failed, it just means another city might be a better fit with your energy, your heart and your soul.