If you are a local theater patron, you are likely familiar with the work of actor/director Jack Ferry. But here is a little-known fact: his Penn State college education resulted in a BS degree in Poultry Technology and Management.
Ferry and his young family moved from Pennsylvania in 1986 to Laurel, Delaware (“slower Delaware” as he describes it). He worked for Frank Perdue as a “flock supervisor,” a responsibility that involved visiting chicken houses and dispensing advice, the Perdue way, on how to raise chickens. It took a couple of years on the job to make Ferry realize there might be a better way than the Perdue way to make a living.
So, it was back to school and, three years later, a law degree resulted in a career more to his liking. It took a lot of time and effort, but he says it was worth it.
The Ferry family moved back to Pennsylvania to start a new life, settling in Lebanon in 1987, where they still reside. During the law school years, Ferry balanced the responsibilities of raising a family (wife and two children) for three years with commuting 110 miles round trip daily from Lebanon to Carlisle while he earned his degree from Dickinson Law School.
Today, Jack and June Ferry look back with pride. Their two children, Melissa, 36, and Sean, 32, have grown up to become wonderful, intelligent, caring adults who strive to help others, he says. “What could be better than that?”
Ferry also mentioned an annual anniversary tradition he and June share. They celebrate by visiting a different state every year. State number 38 was Utah.
In the beginning ….
Ferry’s love of the performing arts began when landed “one of the best high-school jobs I can think of,” he says. He was an usher in an old, 1,000-seat art-deco movie house in Philadelphia: the Mayfair Theater. He was promoted to projectionist, so he could have “more of a role in presenting film to an audience.”
His job stimulated an interest in acting, but he held himself back, he says … thinking he was “too practical minded to ever consider giving it a try.”
The job also brought him together with the candy stand girl, June Wild. A year later, she agreed to be Ferry’s date to the Senior Prom. And a year after that she became Mrs. Ferry. They are still a loving married couple 38 years later.
Live theater finally came into his life, thanks to the example of his boss and mentor Jim Reilly at Reilly Wolfson law firm.
“One day, Reilly mentioned he was going to play the part of a judge in a production of ‘The Blue Eyed Six,’” Ferry recalls, “I had no idea that they would let people with no experience act in a play for a real audience! I figured if Reilly could do it, I could give it a shot as well,”
Soon after that, Ferry auditioned and got the part of a Russian priest who visits an incompetent dentist in a Lebanon Community Theatre production of Neil Simon’s “The Good Doctor.”
“The highlight for me was when the dentist’s assistant tried to pull my tooth, and we ended up in the floor, howling in pain,” he says. “I then heard my young son calling from the audience ‘Don’t hurt my Daddy!’”
Theater involvement continues
Realizing the time and effort it takes to commit to being in a play, Ferry still appeared in selected plays “when the mood struck.”
“It usually took a couple to years to decide I would be ready for the next one,” he says.
After about three years of being busy with other things, he decided to put acting to rest.
“I thought my theater phase was over when, out of the blue, I got a call from Larry Sheaf, asking if I would be interested in a play he was directing, ‘Lunch Hour.’ It turned out to be a good experience. I am grateful to Larry for pushing me back on stage. It made me realize how much I love acting, even rehearsing, community theater productions.”
Ferry feels blessed to have had the opportunity to take on some great roles. For instance, he says, “I got to play the one part that any lawyer/actor would love to do – Atticus Finch in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ When I did Atticus’s ill-fated closing argument to the jury, I thought about real juries I have stood before. It makes me think about Atticus’s pleas for justice. It blurs the line between reality and acting.”
A wonderful role
“My favorite role was playing George Bailey in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ I loved everything about it – a terrific cast, a thoughtful director (Karen Gulotta) who always made sure everyone involved was having a good time, and a script that packed an emotional punch,” Ferry says.
“I think most of us feel like George Bailey at times. Getting my chance to act out both his frustrations and ultimate true riches was a joy. Throughout the show I kept telling myself – ‘Don’t forget this experience! It does not get any better than this!”
COVID closes the stage
When the pandemic and subsequent quarantines became the new reality, Ferry and wife were on a Royal Caribbean Cruise in the middle of the Caribbean.
His plan was to return to rehearsals for “Cheaper by the Dozen” (Ferry was to play the lead role of efficiency-expert Frank Bunker Gilbreth, the father of 12 precocious children) but, instead, rehearsals stopped.
Finally, the play was performed in September of this year on the LCT stage.
“We all missed theater, but the pandemic did not have a great effect on me,” Ferry says. “My law practice continued, with no additional staff. My wonderful secretary was able to eventually return full-time, allowing us to provide our clients with service they deserve.”
Connecting career and acting
Ferry observes that acting has benefited his legal career.
“There are times when I don’t quite know what to say in court, but performing in front of an audience taught me that there is no reason to be overly nervous,” he says. “Good preparation is the key. Even if you forget the words once in a while, preparation helps you find them.”
Sharing the voice of experience
Ferry recalls a time when he told a young actor that he thought she was doing a great job. She tearfully replied that it was the first feedback she had received on how she was doing. Ferry says he took a lesson away from that experience.
“You must let people know when you see them doing something right,” he explains. “My advice is to always be on the lookout for someone who is doing good work. Make sure you let them know it. Acknowledge every kindness. People like being around positive people. Be that positive person.”
He also is convinced that the experience of acting leads to personal growth.
Ferry says he doesn’t have a plan at present to get back on stage. But he is keeping his 2022 options open.
“I am considering trying out for a 2022 show, but I am not sure which one,” he says. “It may be time to try something new, perhaps Shakespeare or – gasp! – a musical.”
Applause is more likely than gasping.
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