From Broadway to the Central Bay
SJSU Humanities and Arts faculty member, Janie Scott, has a résumé that could reach the floor if written out. Between her roles on Broadway, her time touring with major productions, and her experience as a choreographer in both the Bay Area and New York, she offers an expansive and crucial perspective on the dance and theater arts communities. For 20 years, SJSU Dance and Theatre Arts majors have had the privilege of dipping into Scott’s well of knowledge to help them in their own budding careers. Her punchy, straightforward personality not only adds to her skills as an academic adviser and teacher, but also hints at her success as a performer.
Born an army brat in Camp Cook, CA, her birthplace technically does not exist anymore—now called Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, CA. “I don’t have a home-place to go back to,” states Scott, who moved every year of her life until the end of her middle school years. Her familiarity with change proved to be a useful skill later in her career, when living in the midst of the theater world. Entering San José State University as a 17-year-old music major, she quickly switched her major after watching a dance class from the doorway. She describes the moment as being “hit by a lightning bolt,” and, as if by divine intervention, she knew that her path had forked. The decision to become a dancer was not based in any level of logic or objectivity, having never taken a dance class in her life, and came with some resistance from her parents. Nevertheless, she plopped herself front and center of every class, a five-foot-tall, redheaded freshman taking every opportunity imaginable to soak in knowledge like a sponge.
Her gung-ho personality and her determination to improve fueled her. She purposefully worked with artists more experienced than herself, who always pushed her to, as she says, “run faster, harder, and jump higher.”Although she felt that her lack of experience would show, she began giving herself the pep talk she would use for years and years to come: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Her love of musicals began, ironically, with a fear of singing publicly—maybe not the best fear for a future Broadway performer. Scott sweated at the idea of auditioning for a musical, but after a bit of a push from a casting director, she auditioned for and was cast in a small production. “They really needed a little one on the end,” Scott explains with a smirk. After three weeks in this production, she no longer felt satisfied with only dance, and needed to engage fully with a character, both physically and vocally.
At age 25, she auditioned for A Chorus Line in San Francisco—“What’s the worst thing that could happen?” After a grueling five-hour audition, the competition weaned down to Scott and two other women for a spot on their tour. Luckily, she made the cut and headed out for the tour as an understudy swing. “My life changed forever,” she explains, pointing to a banner with photos of all of the casts from A Chorus Line. “I have no business being on that poster, nothing like that should have happened when I started dancing at barely 17 and not singing until I was 21, no major résumé, no nothing.” Scott is the definition of a role model in this aspect. From aspiring dancers to already determined performers, she represents the success of a strong will and the eagerness to learn. Professor Scott has worked hard to get where she is, and has many war stories to share with her students: to inspire them, prepare them, and dazzle them.
by Danielle de Ojeda, English & Comparative Literature Major, SJSU