An Exceptional Talent Moves on to Bigger and Better Things

Former Penn Manor student, Jill Wiley, was bitten by the performing bug at the young age of 8, but has now turned her talents into a serious career.

She is commonly known around the halls of Penn Manor High School for being “Miss Pennsylvania,” but people also know her for starring roles in shows here at Penn Manor.

Both musically and theatrically talented, Jill has been a very busy girl, managing school, a job, and her musical and theatrical talents.

Senior Jill Wiley chose to do cyber school for her last year of highschool. Photo credit to Ibbie Howard

It all started when she auditioned for her first show at the Dutch Apple Diner Theater. After auditioning, she was told that she was not going to be in the show.

“I was mad, upset and was going to give up,” said Wiley. “I was telling myself, ‘I hate theater, it’s stupid. I give up!’ But a week later I received a phone call saying that I got the role because another girl dropped out. So I did the show,” said Wiley.

When she was young, Jill only did shows in the winter and summer, which quickley led to her performing on a more frequent basis.

“Many a times i would be in rehersal during the day for one show, while performing in the evening for another,” said Wiley.

“I performed in various areas such as Ephrata, Hershey, Harrisburg and Lancaster,” said Wiley. 

With age comes experience.

“When I was 13, I was put in the national tour for ‘Beauty and the Beast’ for an ensemble (chorus). At that point, I realized with the adult actors and their positive influences that this was what I wanted to pursue,” said Wiley.

Wiley explained how she has been in over 30 musicals and 18 plays in both equity and non-equity houses or theaters. She also went to New York for musical theater intensive training.

Jill poses as Sharpay in HSM2. Photo by Andy Babin

“When I was 16, going into my sophomore year of high school, I had my first Broadway audition for ‘Spring Awakening,’ ‘Bye Bye Birdy,’ and ’13’ the musical. From there I had call backs.”

“I’d like to say that the Fulton Opera House is like my second home.Throughout the years, I have had the opportunity to perform in several past productions,” Wiley said.

Wiley’s most recent and upcoming musical is ‘The Sound of Music’ by Rodgers & Hammerstein, opening at the Fulton Opera House on December 2.  There will be a total of 37 performances.

“I am part of the ensemble as well as the Liesel understudy. I think the role of an understudy can be filled with excitement, and at the same time very nerve racking,” said Wiley.

In January Jill may be going to Florida to continue the show at the Maltz-Jupiter Theater.

“My call back audition for the show was the day before Penn Manor started their first day of school, August 30th. I chose to do cyber school for my senior year,” Wiley explained.  “I wanted to take the risk because this show was the opportunity of a lifetime. Putting that on your resume is a big deal. Had I gone to Penn Manor, I would have had to miss out on the show, and other opportunities to travel and audition elsewhere.”

Melissa Telesco, a music teacher here at Penn Manor High School, has worked with Wiley in musicals, chorus, piano and when Wiley performed for Manor Singers.

“I would dare to say in the 10 years that I have been teaching, Jill is by far the most talented student I’ve taught. She has the complete package. She can sing, dance, and she demands stage presence,” said Telesco.

“For our show ‘Curtains’ last year, she came and asked me for a background role to be the choreographer,” added Telesco.  “It’s impressive that she stepped back out of the limelight to challenge herself.”

She explained how cyber school allows her the freedom to come and go as she pleases.

“Obviously school comes first, but my schedule is so much more flexible to do those film and TV promos, meeting with possible agents and things like that,” said Wiley. “On Mondays and Thursdays I have dance and Tuesdays I have voice lessons that I’ve had since I was ten.”

Wiley said other people have an inaccurate opinion about musical theater.

“A lot of people have the misconception that performing in the music theater is just a hobby, and for some it is. However, for those who wish to pursue it as a career, your training and preparations have to start two years before you would even think about performing because it is that demanding and cutthroat of a business,” she said. “You can’t just wake up one morning of your senior year of high school and say ‘Oh, I want to go into musical theater and perform on Broadway.’

“It takes many years of hard work to handle both the physical and mental demands of being a performer,” said Wiley.

“In the world of performing in live theater, there’s nothing like it,” she said, “It takes a certain type of person to be willing to fail, and then be able to run with a full force when a moment presents itself for success.”

By Jenna Reel

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