The Fox Valley region is teaming with young talent and future leaders. Josh Thone, an alum of the Center Stage High School Musical Theater Program and Appleton’s St. Francis Xavier High School was nominated in June 2022 alongside Amelia Gibbons from Green Bay Southwest High School where they represented the Center Stage Program at The Jimmy Awards®/National High School Musical Theatre Awards® in New York City. Talking about their experience in New York and at The Jimmy Awards in an engaging Q+A, Josh and Amelia shared highlights enjoyed and lessons learned. Throughout the past year, Josh has taken what he has learned from that experience, applied it, and taken large leaps in his personal and professional life, including a recent performance at your Fox Cities P.A.C. on June 4.
Josh is attending UW-Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts where he studies musical theatre. Pursuing his dreams, Josh is a musical theatre student ambassador and works on stage productions. “When you have passion and drive, anything is possible,” he said. “The Center Stage Program and the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center gave me the opportunity to reach for the stars.”
In his down time, he works for Fox Crossing’s Parks and Recreation. Josh recently directed Disney’s The Little Mermaid for the department’s theater camp. Recently, Josh even brought the young children he works with to explore the Fox Cities P.A.C. He enjoys working with them and sharing his passion of the arts, particularly musical theater. “I’m able to connect with them and provide opportunities that younger me would have loved,” Josh shared.
Sharing his love of theater with other community members, Josh founded a theater collective: Josh Thone and Company. This collective is ecstatic to present the debut of a new production of JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, produced and directed by Josh. Performances will take place July 26-29 in the Lucia Baehman Theater at UWO-Fox Cities. Tickets can be purchased here.
“Since I was in 5th grade, I have been imagining this show, dreaming so big,” Josh shared. “The story is a more modern take; it’s poignant and great for all ages. I’m excited to bring this show to life, featuring my friend and fellow The Jimmy Awards nominee, Brima Gassama as Joseph.” Memphis born and raised, Brima is one of the people that Josh formed a friendship with while at The Jimmy Awards. Josh remarked how he enjoys having Brima stay with him to rehearse and star in the new production, citing that their respective musical theater programs and The Jimmy Awards brought them together.
Learning his craft firsthand through school and the community, Josh has been able to focus on other areas of theater beyond the stage, including marketing and financing. “I like to say, I’m happy-busy,” Josh commented with a laugh. “I love diving into projects and doing things to improve myself.”
Center Stage High School Musical Theater Program participants focus on building themselves up and establishing strong connections within the community. For Josh, seeing other high school students go through the program who were not afraid to be themselves was a huge source of inspiration, giving him an enormous boost in confidence and a desire to be in the program. “It’s a trial-and-error process trying to figure out who you are, especially as a teenager,” he stated. “Having individuals on stage who represent who you are is very important.”
Students in the program also get a chance to explore the inner workings of theater both on and off the stage. “The Center Stage Program provided opportunities to connect with other high school students and arts professionals,” Josh said. When the touring Broadway production of Hadestown came to the Center, Josh was able to participate in a workshop with a cast member of the show. “I use the advice he offered in the workshop for my performance skills.”
When it came to the Center Stage High School Musical Theater Showcase and The Jimmy Awards, Josh remarked how winning didn’t matter at the end of the day. “There was so much more than winning. It was about performing on stage with your friends, building self-confidence, and showing your diversity. The Center Stage Program gave us confidence to get on stage and sing our hearts out. That confidence is important, regardless of if you pursue a career in music or theater or not.”
Reflecting more on The Jimmy Awards, Josh mentioned how he and many others went in with expectations. “The whole experience turned into something we least expected,” he said. “We did learn things, golden things. Everyone was so different, but each of us was ready to put on a show.” Josh added, “It’s beautiful the number of friendships you make through a once-in-a-lifetime experience like that.”
Completing a full circle experience, Josh recently made his debut as a professional singer in a new show at the Center on June 4: JOSH THONE: LIVE AT THE FOX CITIES P.A.C. Josh’s sold out performance at the cabaret-style show included a Funny Girl medley, “What I Did for Love,” from A Chorus Line and “The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert in the intimate setting of the Kimberly-Clark Theater. Highlighting musical theater, jazz, country and more, Josh delighted his audience with his melodic voice accompanied by a three-piece band. “The whole thing was a blur,” he laughingly said. “But the days leading up to it, my mom would say, ‘This is it; this is what you’ve worked for!’ And she was right. This is something I have been working toward for a long time, ever since I saw my first national touring Broadway show at the Fox Cities P.A.C. in 2012.” With his name on the Center’s marquee, Josh felt the magnitude of the moment set in.
During the show, Josh took a moment to recognize the people who made a difference in his life and made that incredible performance possible. “Your life is a tapestry woven by people and moments that define you,” he commented. “That performance was a manifestation of my biggest dreams and wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my family, friends, the Fox Cities P.A.C., the Center Stage Program and everyone else who helped me. I was able to gather everyone in one room and express my deepest thanks.” Josh admitted to crying quite a bit, feeling nostalgic and bittersweet. Moving forward, he will be using this time to process the experience and a dream come true.
Josh shows no signs of slowing down and is continuing to look for more opportunities on the horizon. He would like to continue performing and is looking at a few performing arts centers in the Midwest including Milwaukee and Chicago. While keeping up with his studies, Josh hopes to direct more productions as well. He will continue honing his craft and living his dream of sharing his talent and passion for the arts.
Written by Philomena Dorobek, Brand Storyteller
Fox Cities Performing Arts Center