Lady Guenevere

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 12:00:00 am

 Jennifer Hope Wills is The Lovely Queen Guenevere in Camelot 

 I was born in Baltimore, MD to proud parents William and Sue Wills. I spent the first two years of my life in and out of rehearsal halls, dressing rooms and even a closet or two due to the fact that my parents were active participants in Baltimore Actors' Theatre (BAT). I made my stage debut before my first birthday with a 102-degree temperature as the baby prince in Rumplestiltskin...what a trouper! Before my second birthday, my parents dropped the bomb when it was discovered that a baby brother was on the way. Lots of things were about to change. Not only would I no longer be the only child, but also my parents decided that they had to leave Baltimore. With two children, there was no way that they could support a family on theatrical wages and if one of them would have to leave the theatre...then both of them would have to leave. They decided to move down to the family resort town of Ocean City, MD where there were absolutely no theatrical outlets. That's what they thought anyway…

An old movie theatre down on Worcester Street right off the boardwalk went up for rent and the crazy mind of my father went to work. A children's theatre in Ocean City...what an idea! There was no theatre in town, the theatre was right off the boardwalk and after all, this was a family resort. The idea couldn't fail! My parents sold everything and my father left his lucrative job at the Sheraton Hotel and Parker Playhouse (Parker Productions, Inc.) opened its doors. And the outcome? Well, the idea failed miserably and we lost everything. Did that stop the Wills? No indeed. "Where there's a Wills, there's a way!" Somehow we managed to keep the theatre going and after several moves (Jolly Roger Amusement Park, The Sheraton Hotel and finally the Carousel Hotel) and many years of struggle, Parker Productions became a moneymaking operation and the sole source of income for the Wills Family. For seventeen of the twenty years that Parker Productions was under operation I performed alongside my mother, father, brother Dan and sister Rebecca. Even my grandmother Dolores got into the act. It was truly a most unique childhood and one that would mold my love for theatre and music and would make it difficult for me to choose any other direction.

I attended Salisbury State University and began my college career as a History Education Major.  Gradually I began taking more music classes than history classes, began taking voice lessons, had joined the college choir and the college theatre club (Sophanes). By the middle of her sophomore year I officially became a music major. I appeared in the college theatre productions of Grapes of Wrath (Elizabeth Sandry), West Side Story (Maria...yes complete with dark skin and hair) and The Secret Garden (Lily). I also won first place in several state and regional NATS Vocal Competitions. I graduated suma cum laude with a BA in Music Education.

I attended  graduate school at prestigious Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. This was my first real move from home. During mytwo years at IU I performed in many of the main stage and chamber productions. I quickly graduated with honors with a MM in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy and a concentration in Theatre. It wasn't long before I came full circle with my decision to return to the world of theatre and found myself with two suitcases on a bus to NYC. I was cast in productions from my first two auditions in New York and by the end of that year I had obtained equity status and had been cast in leading roles up and down the east coast.

My mom and dad are my biggest role models, mentors and influences.  I was also a huge fan of Julie Andrews and Rebecca Luker and dreamed of being just like them :)  Well again, I grew up in the theatre so I really always new about “Camelot” and have always loved it! I saw the show one of those last Richard Harris tours when it came through Baltimore. I’ve always been just hooked on all the stories, books and poetry about King Arthur and it has always been a dream for me to play Guenevere. I have done the show twice before. 11 years ago as Lady Anne/Guenevere Understudy at Paper Mill Playhouse (understudying a WBT favorite Glory Crampton) and then the next summer as Nimue at Sacramento Music Circus. I thought this one had passed me by but I got in by the skin of my teeth :)

 I did indeed see the movie when I was younger and I actually owned the two VHS tape set. I actually think that turning musicals into movies is great! Especially now as it is bringing a less popular form of entertainment to the masses who might not otherwise be exposed. I also loved the intimacy that you can get on film that you can’t always achieve in the theatre especially if you are sitting any further back than the first couple of rows.

 I’m a classics kind of girl and my all time favorites are My Fair Lady, Carousel, The Music Man, She Loves Me and Most Happy Fella. I feel extremely fortunate and blessed in that I have gotten to play almost every ingenue dream role I ever had (with Guenevere being the last). I still would love a crack at Rosabella in Most Happy Fella and I’m waiting until I age into Sally in Follies. I have also never really done anything totally brand new and that would be a great dream come true.

 When not on stage, first and foremost I'm mom to my 6 year old son Vincent. I also love just being outdoors: hanging at the beach, hiking, camping, etc. and traveling anywhere and everywhere.




Wow, you certainly have had quite an interesting life. What fabulous memories you must have. I guess I envy anyone who fulfilled what I feel was a dream of mine. During my HS and early working years, I "moonlighted" as an usherette at the Schubert Theatre in Chicago where I developed my love for the Musical Stage. We were allowed to switch theaters so as not to miss any of the other shows, one of which was the National Company of Camelot staring Kathryn Grayson and Arthur Treacher. That definitely was before you were born -- and probably even before your parents were born!!!!! Camelot was in Chicago over a half century ago, and needless to say I have been chomping at the bit waiting for the WBT production. They are the best! My husband, I and even my Service Dog, consider the WBT our 2nd home, and haven't missed a production in 15 or 20 years - this dog has only been going for 2 years! Have a wonderful run. Can't wait to see you on 2/12.
Posted by: Annette Smith on January 30, 2015 at 8:00:39 pm

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