Although Papa Bear was shorter than she was, 6-year-old Angelica Jackson wasn’t at all bothered by the height difference. After all, she was playing Mama Bear, one of the leads in her first grade play — a play that would leave her with a taste for the theater that has never left.
Since then, Jackson, combining her love of theater with her love of promoting social change and helping others, went on to study both theater and anthropology at the University of Virginia.
“Since I loved both disciplines I thought I should study both, and so I did,” says Jackson, originally from the Washington, D.C. area, “although at first I did pursue acting.”
That pursuit led to an apprenticeship at the Walnut Street Theatre, where she auditioned for a spot with 500 other hopefuls and was only one of four to be accepted.
“I was thrilled to be chosen,” recalls Jackson, “and that’s where I essentially learned about theatre and jump started my career. I appeared in many of their children’s shows, their Christmas shows and more. It was an amazing experience.”
And it led to so many other experiences, including being nominated twice for a prestigious Barrymore Award — once for Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Musical for “Ragtime,” and once for Most Outstanding Lead Actress in “Black Nativity.”
Today, Jackson is appearing in “Cry It Out,” a production of Simpatico Theatre in partnership with Parent Artist Advocacy League. The play, a comedy with dark edges, runs through June 23.
Thrilled and delighted with the way her career was going, Jackson couldn’t let go of her drive to help others.
“I had always wanted to study abroad, and so eventually I went to Bangladesh, a trip that would change my life forever,” she says.
Jackson says she believes other students should take advantage of such an experience, but for many reasons they do not.
“They may fear living abroad, or fear traveling outside the U.S., or simply fear the cost. But that experience so emboldened my career choices that I dove head on into becoming involved with non-profits,” she says.
She acknowledges that others may not have the opportunities she did, so to provide those opportunities for others, she started a non-profit called “Journey Beyond,” even going on to the University of Pennsylvania to obtain her master’s degree and more knowledge into the field.
“My goal is to develop resources and provide oppotunites for students who are vulnerable and living in isolated communities. And I do believe there is a correlation between this work and my theater work as well,” Jackson says.
“Sometimes I take the work I do in the theater outside of that work when creating a curriculum for the global students,” she says, “because I believe the qualities that exist in the theater are the same sorts of qualities needed in the global market and as a global citizen as well. In both instances you need the ability to feel empathy and compassion for others, something that was ingrained in me as an actress, and continues to be ingrained in me as a human being.”