Javar Parker remembers the exact moment that the theatrical bug bit him. It was 2000. He was a freshman in the old Mansfield Senior High School.
“I sang in choirs and always enjoyed music, but I didn’t know anything about theater,” he recalled. “Brian Nabors, then the music director at Senior High, talked me into trying out for the musical Schoolhouse Rock. From the moment that I touched the stage I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
Parker, a member of the Class of 2004 – the last graduating class in the old high school – just finished a six-week run as a member of the ensemble of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in London. Earlier this year he played the nasty landlord Benjamin Coffin III in the touring 20th anniversary production of Rent, The Musical in the United Kingdom.
Parker was back at Senior High on Thursday to meet with Senior High Vocal Music Director Dirk Eachus and students enrolled in Eachus’s Career Tech performing arts class.
“There is a lot of talent here in Mansfield just as there was when I was a student,” Parker said, recalling his involvement with Mansfield Playhouse and the Rennaisance Theatre. “I always considered myself as being in the middle of the pack. But I want the kids here today to realize there is a way to achieve their goals, whatever are, if they work very hard.”
Eachus recalled that his first year at Senior High was Parker’s senior year. “Brian Nabors, who is now at Shelby City Schools, was involved in much of Javar’s early training,” Eachus said. “I helped Javar prepare his material for his application to Baldwin Wallace University.”
At Baldwin Wallace Parker was active in theater, the Voices of Praise gospel choir and the B-W Singers. He received his degree in music and theater in 2008. Parker lived in New York City for eight years before relocating to London two years ago. A member of Actors’ Equity Association, he performed in several regional productions and has written and arranged for high school choirs and ensembles. His songwriting in various styles – pop, rock and rhythm and blues — has included songs written for Canadian artist Martin Theberge.
“I got close to Broadway a couple of times but working in West End theatre in London has given me new opportunities to do more,” Parker said. “I really enjoyed Rent, The Musical and Jesus Christ Superstar.
While he has an interest in working in music publishing or music production one day, he is collaborating with his agent in London on near-term projects. “Musical theater is my bread and butter,” he said.
In his meeting with Eachus’s students, Parker coaxed each one to talk about why they were in the performing arts class and what their goals are. He answered questions about his career, but repeatedly turned the discussion back toward the students, encouraging them to always believe in themselves. “I never thought I could make this a career,” he said of the theater, “but, lo and behold, 14 years later, here I am.”
Source, Photo: Mansfield City Schools; Creative Commons License