To hear Jeremy Evans tell it, carving out an acting and directing career in Northern Michigan has amounted to some lucky breaks. “Oh m’ gosh, it was just kind of a fluke, it just happened," he says. The truth is, of course, making a living off his craft in Northern Michigan didn’t just happen without plenty of hard work and talent.

Back in the 1980’s Evans was a wunderkind of Glen Lake High School starring in productions including Wizard of Oz and My Fair Lady. After graduating form Alma College with a degree in music education, Evans hit the show biz circuit working in dinner theaters and summer stock from New York City to Florida and many points between. He eventually landed a part as Jinx in Forever Plaid—a part he played in four different company productions. “I played him A LOT,” he says with a laugh.

Then one day Evans got a call from the Interlochen Arts Camp asking him to come back to Northern Michigan and direct camp musical theater workshop for middle school-aged children. It didn’t take long for word to spread through the region about Evans’ gift for working with young people, combined with his own acting skill. Pretty soon he had gigs with productions at West, Central, Leland and Kingsley high Schools. And eventually he moved to working with high school aged students at Interlochen Arts Camp during the camps 3-week session. "It’s a very intensive, professional work experience," Evans says. "The kids get acting, choreography and voice lessons—it’s 10 hour days."

Evans is currently the music teacher at Leland Schools, a position he took last year. Whether he’s working with campers at Interlochen or students at Leland, Evans envelops the children in his infectious love of theater. The students pay him back with their dedication. “Working with kids has always been fun. It’s incredible,” Evans says. “The director thing is really more fulfilling than the acting—when you watch them get that spark, see the light bulb go on and they say ‘I get it.’ Kids who aren’t succeeding anywhere else—then they get into the drama program and they’re walking tall, they have a good group of friends to hang out with, they go on to college. What an incredible thing to be able to show them that hard work pays off.”

May 1-3 and 8-10 Evans is directing the Leland High School production of The Wiz, at Leland High School. Show times are at 7 p.m. and Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. $8 adults; $5 students. Reserve tickets by calling 256-3815 or 256-9857 or purchase them at the box office.

Watch the video with Jeremy Evans and his students about this years production of The Wiz, an urban take on The Wizard of Oz.

Find more details about The Wiz and performance information.

Grab a bite to eat before the show! Check out the MyNorth Dining Guide.

Photo(s) by Jeff Morgan