Updated: Nov 19, 2020
Jon Shelley is the Perkinson Center's Technical Director and Production Manager. You may see him one week with blue hair and purple the next. His personality is even more colorful and vast than his whatever he is sporting that week.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up just outside of Boston, surrounded by a small menagerie of animals that I counted as my brothers and sisters. I decided to follow my family’s footsteps and went to college at Virginia Tech, where I somehow managed to graduate, despite the non-stop distractions provided by football, marching bands, theater and life. I spent a year and half working down at Busch Gardens – Tampa in the Moroccan Palace, serving as a technician on “Hollywood Live On Ice” and “World Rhythms on Ice”, where I learned being a technician on an ice show can be incredibly fun and ridiculously painful.
From there, I moved to Richmond, where I spent the next 17 years getting to work with hundreds of amazing students at the Collegiate School, where I served as Theater Manager for the Oates Theater, and taught technical theater and film production classes. In that time, I got to work on dozens of productions, and watch some amazing kids create theatre that I would gladly put up against any show in Richmond.
I left Collegiate in 2018 to refresh my theatrical and artistic soul, and worked as a freelance lighting designer and event technician for two years, before I was lucky enough to be approached to become involved in this beautiful new venue. I’m hoping this is the last full-time chapter I will need to add to my resume.
The few minutes that I’m not knee-deep in the awesomeness that is the Perkinson Center, I’m surrounding myself with my four beautiful pups, my even-more beautiful partner, and hanging out in Blacksburg with my family and friends, doing my best to cheer for my beloved Hokies at the top of my lungs.
What’s your background in the arts?
I’ve been involved in the arts ever since I was a child. Since elementary school, I’ve always been singing, dancing, playing an instrument, or messing around in the theater. I started my theater life as an actor, but discovered the excitement of the backstage arts when I got to Virginia Tech. When I wasn’t distracted by the Marching Virginians and Hokie football, I was having fun helping run concerts and shows. Wanting even more of a challenge, 5 of my best friends and I started a completely student-run musical theater company, and successfully produced 3 full-scale musicals in three years. It was these last three years that I learned the art of lighting and lighting design, and have been obsessed with it ever since.
What excites you about working for the Perkinson Center?
Two simple words. Unlimited opportunities. The possibilities of what we can produce at the Perkinson Center are endless, only surpassed by the opportunity this center has to give back to and enrich the Chesterfield and greater Richmond communities. I can’t wait to see the educational opportunities we can provide within these walls, and the discoveries that our patrons will be able to share with others.
What hopes and dreams do you have for the Perkinson Center?
I want to see the Perkinson Center and Chesterfield grow with each other. I want us to provide educational and enrichment opportunities for all that join us here, and I want to see the things we have to offer grow as the Chesterfield community embraces the opportunities our facilities can provide.
How will the Perkinson Center positively impact Chesterfield and the surrounding areas?
I think the entertainment opportunities we provide will help increase the need for restaurants and other social gathering locations, and the educational and community outreach opportunities we provide will help increase the passion for the arts in this community.
Chess. Or Little Shop of Horrors. Or Hair. Or Wicked. Or……
If we’re talking visual artist, I’ve always been intrigued by Toulouse-Lautrec. George Seurat also thrills me, but that might just be his connection with Sondheim. Ansel Adams, Bob Ross, Guy Ritchie, Tom Hanks, Anne McCaffery, Steven Spielberg…. artist is a beautifully general word, and there are so many out there with such amazing talents. And I love to surround myself with as many of them as I can.
Something fun(ny) to know about you:
I was almost killed by an iceberg in Florida. Have fun figuring that one out.
Favorite space at the Perkinson Center?
Favorite. A tough answer, as it makes so many of my loved spots in the center seem less. But, if you want the truthful answer, it’s my office. Each moment in that room is a moment I’m thinking about a show that is going to be passing through, a theater production we will be putting up, a dance show with dozens of excited kids, a workshop that our community is involved in, a party happening on our patio, and the people that are walking through our halls, and it’s those moments that I find myself filled with true satisfaction. Plus, I have seen some beautiful sunsets through my office window, and the ability to be in a venue with such breadth of opportunity while still have a connection to the outside world is so beautiful.