During a late-September run of North Shore Music Theatre company’s Little Shop of Horrors, the cast went on a whale watching expedition for fun. Janaysia Gethers ’22 was the only performer who didn’t get seasick.
She was a member of the ensemble and an understudy for three actresses, one of whom felt so ill on board that she told Gethers to get ready to step in for her that evening. That actress recovered by curtain time—but another collapsed on stage during the first act. “I was in the bathroom practicing for an upcoming audition, and I heard banging on the door,” Gethers says. “I was asked to play Crystal.”
One of her mentors at Plymouth State, Amanda Whitworth ’08MEd, director of dance, happened to be in the audience that night and says, “Janaysia was tremendous and received a standing ovation.”
Panicked at first, Gethers easily transformed into Crystal and felt exhilarated to be in such a key role so soon after graduating from PSU. She credits Whitworth and three other PSU professors—Justin McCarthy, Hannah Murray, and Niki Tulk—with readying her.
“They helped me learn to trust my gut and follow what my soul and intuition are telling me,” Gethers says.
Gethers moved around as a child, settling in Weymouth, MA, in 2012 with her family. She chose Plymouth State because it offered the musical theater degree she wanted and fit her budget. Both African American and White, Gethers was not prepared for the far less diverse region of New Hampshire and had some social anxiety about fitting in with fellow cast members.
“They weren’t exposed to as many musical genres as I was,” Gethers says, noting that they were open to learning from her. While performing in Sister Act, for instance, Gethers was instrumental in introducing a fuller, more Gospel-based sound.
Gethers was Delores Van Cartier in that show, played Rebecca Gibbs in Our Town, and Pugsley Addams in The Addams Family. In her senior year, Gethers performed with Christian Simpson ’22 in a two-man production of The Last Five Years, produced by the Plymouth Players.
Outside of the theater, Gethers was a member of a club called She’s the First, which raises money for PSU scholarships for low-income women living abroad. Founded by Gethers’ roommate, Allie Pattelena ’23, the group is now led by Pattelena and Aidan Boisvert ’22.
Hope Burrows ’22, another roommate, introduced Gethers to roller skating and both were in a skating club, ironically called Girls Not Acting Right (GNAR).
Gethers’s key learning at PSU was centering herself—focusing on her inner voice, rather than worrying about what others expected of her.
Soon after graduation, she performed with a company in Norwell, MA, playing Dione in Hair. After that closed at the end of August, she scored the role in Little Shop of Horrors as an equity actress—which carries the clout of higher earnings and better benefits.
Gethers had filmed her own audition, thinking it would be an arduous process, but the company simply sent her an invitation to join the ensemble. “I sobbed when I got it in the mail,” she says, adding that the company put her up for the duration.
Hannah Murray, teaching faculty member and coordinator of vocal studies, says, “For Janaysia to walk out with a BA and be considered for an equity contract is a feat and speaks to her talent, drive, and training thus far.”
Gethers modestly says, “I was in the right place at the right time.”
She continues to audition, including trying out for a spot in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical with Norwegian Cruise Lines. She plans to move to New York City, and we can expect to hear more about her budding stage career in the days to come.