Talent Unlimited actor Jon Daugharthy was featured in the Kansas City Star today.
Photo: Jon Daugharthy starred as Harold Hill in “The Music Man” at Theatre in the Park
Lawyer Jon Daugharthy states his case on the musical stage
By ROBERT TRUSSELL
The Kansas City Star - 04.01.10
Jon Daugharthy understands the fine print better than your average actor when he’s offered a contract to be in a show or shoot a commercial.
That’s because Daugharthy, 35, actually has two careers. He’s an actor who specializes in musical theater, but he also maintains a law practice.
The Overland Park native who obtained an undergraduate degree in political science from Kansas State University is one of four actors engaged in the American Heartland Theatre’s lively production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.”
He worked backstage and occasionally performed onstage in high school musicals at Shawnee Mission West. In college he sang in choir. But to this day he has never had an acting lesson.
“I got into this through theme-park work,” he said one evening at the Heartland offices. “I went on a dare in college to an audition at Busch Gardens, Virginia, for a summer job. I got the job singing in an a cappella quartet. And a lot of those people were involved in theater programs in their schools.”
It was the first time Daugharthy had found himself in a culture of professional actors and singers, so he went back the next summer. After he graduated from college, he landed the first of two nine-month contracts at Disneyland Tokyo. Between Tokyo gigs, he performed for Opryland Productions in Nashville.
In Tokyo, both times, he performed a day show — “The Diamond Horseshoe Revue” — and a night show — “The Hoop-De-Doo Revue.” The casts included English-speakers and Japanese performers, and the shows were performed in both languages, which meant Daugharthy had to learn some Japanese phonetically.
“I learned from the Japanese performers at the end of the nine months that a lot of it was indecipherable to them,” he said. “What I heard was not what they heard. But it was a real interesting experience.”
One of his roommates in Tokyo was a Broadway veteran who was 37 at the time. He gave Daugharthy some advice.
“He said, ‘Look, if you don’t have to do this, don’t do this if there’s anything else you can do,’ ” Daugharthy said.
So when he came back to the States he enrolled in law school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He stayed in Nashville after he graduated, clerking for a trial judge for a couple of years and eventually joining a law firm. He was also married and divorced in Nashville.
About three years ago he found himself back in Kansas City. And he realized he missed performing. He called actress Alison Sneegas Borberg, whom he had known since high school, and she gave him a few contacts.
Since then the stage work has been fairly regular. He played Harold Hill in “The Music Man” at Theatre in the Park; he has performed shows at Quality Hill Playhouse, including the memorable “Musical of Musicals”; he was in “No Way to Treat a Lady” for the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, and he appeared in a revue at the Chestnut Fine Arts Theatre just before the Heartland show opened.
Daugharthy said the ideal balance would be to do two shows a year and practice law the rest of the time. More than that would be a strain on family life. He has an 8-year-old stepdaughter, and he and his wife, Michelle, are expecting their first child in September.
The legal work, he said, “Was more like acting than I ever imagined. I can’t tell you what shows I will have a year from now, and I can’t tell you what commercials I’ll have a month from now. But I feel like the acting side can hold up if I can get very targeted in my practice. But to do that you have to turn work away, which is awfully hard to do.”
Daugharthy is licensed to practice law in Missouri and Kansas, and most of the work he does falls under the broad umbrella of administrative law — compliance work for startup companies and new nonprofit organizations, for example.
“I’m still trying to figure out how a solo practice works,” he said. “I’m actually a young lawyer, and I’m also a young actor in terms of experience because I split my time so much. It’s basically whatever comes in the door and whatever I feel like I can ethically handle.”
Daugharthy, by any measure, is doing quite well, but he conceded there are times when his lack of drama-school training makes him nervous.
“This is training on the job for me, which I find both a blessing and a curse,” he said. “I get to come into it pretty fresh, and up to a point I think being naive and not having the training tools sets you apart. On the other hand, there’s an internal thing for me of just not feeling secure. I feel like I’m constantly picking things up.”
Like “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” most of the shows on Daugharthy’s resume are revues. But he’d like to do more book musicals, and there’s one he dreams about: “Les Miserables.”
“I’d love to be Javert,” he said. “Who doesn’t want to sing a song and then die on stage? I don’t know if it’ll ever happen here, but I’d love to do it.”
Jon Daugharthy (top left) and Adam Branson. The show runs through April 25 at the American Heartland Theatre. Call 816-842-9999 or go to www.ahtkc.com