Jean Burr

Why Theatre Matters To Us: Jean E. Burr

Ghostlight is sharing our personal stories of why theatre is so important to us and, in turn, to others. We hope you'll feel inspired to support the arts now and forever more.

Jean E. Burr, Casting Coordinator, Ensemble Member

Jean E. Burr (right) as Clara the rag doll in Ghostlight's 2017 production of "Nutcracker Nightmare."

Jean E. Burr (right) as Clara the rag doll in Ghostlight's 2017 production of "Nutcracker Nightmare."

"When I was 2 years old, I wanted to be a lion. I would roar at the lions when we went to the zoo (I’m sure they loved that), I would read and re-read my Zoobooks issue all about African cats, I’d play with my lion figurines, developing stories that I can only compare to Young & the Restless: Simba Edition.

"I did all of this, not only because I was a weird kid, but because I watched Disney’s The Lion King. I saw it in theatres… nine times. I listened to the soundtrack constantly and knew that my calling in life was to become a true, African wild cat.

"As I grew up, I realized my dream could never be a reality. I could never turn into a lion a la Animorphs and sing Elton John songs as I slept on a giant kopje with my lion friends.

"Or so I thought.

"When I entered pre-school, I was well over my desire to actually become a lion, but I quickly fell into pretend games with other children. We played Sailor Moon (I was always Sailor Jupiter, thankyouverymuch), Aladdin (I settled for the role of Rajah- not quite a lion, but close enough), Thumbelina (titular role, duh), or our own adventure games on the playground. My imagination ran wild.

"Our pre-school put on the show Peter Pan. I remember being pulled aside after school and offered the role of Wendy. Being the brat that I am, I accepted but told my mom I really wanted to play Tinkerbell. She talked some sense into me and I grew more and more excited. We probably only rehearsed a few days, but it felt like a month-long rehearsal process with clear actions, beats, scene-work, relationships, drama, complete with a show-crush on our Peter Pan.

"The performance was, in my memory, the most magical thing in the world. I felt so happy to be performing in front of my family and peers, and so proud when all of my scenes were well-received. I remember 'walking the plank' before Peter saved me, and thinking to myself, 'I LOVE this.' Afterwards, I received praise and hugs, and I felt like a giant, glowing ball of happiness in a blue nightgown costume. From lions to playground to Peter Pan, I found what I wanted to do. My brother had his sports, and I had theatre. And it would be a giant part of my life from that moment and for the next 22+ years.

"Theatre gave me purpose. It gave me empathy. It helped me form bonds and friendships from pre-school to adulthood. It helped me find my way to my home, Chicago. It gave me hope when I was lost in my late teens and early twenties. It helped me find a partner. It helped me find my place. Without theatre, I would be lost. With it, I can be anything, even a lion."