College of Visual and Performing Arts

Be the Change: Junior Mary Kathryn Johnson


Mary Kathryn Johnson

By Jen Kulju (M'04)

Junior Mary Kathryn Johnson believes that God has hard-wired her to be in the arts. Her father is a Christian songwriter and pianist, so Johnson, too, learned to play the piano. She was encouraged to try her hand at guitar in middle school where a year or two of coaching proved enough to guide her natural talent. Her interest in music as well as theatre led her to study musical theatre in college, the first from her high school to pursue that path. 

Originally from Atlanta, Johnson made the hard decision of attending the school farthest from home. “It was not a fun decision to make, but it was the right one.” “I knew that in my gut there was nowhere else I could be other than JMU. I fell in love with the campus, the Forbes Center, and how lovely, friendly and driven the people were.”

“I knew that in my gut there was nowhere else I could be other than JMU."

It’s a decision she hasn’t regretted. Johnson lived in Wayland Hall her freshman year where she was immediately able to establish connections with students majoring in the visual and performing arts. She roomed with two dancers and also became friends with visual artists. According to Johnson, “My roommates and I were able to dance in the performance hall (in Wayland) and encourage                                                                            each other. I also have several friends who are sculptors, and I go                                                                              see their exhibitions.”

During her time at JMU, Johnson has performed in several shows including Gone Missing, Spring Awakening, ALL SHOOK UP, and Boeing, Boeing. Johnson also played Betsy and Lindsey in the Forbes Center’s Spring 2014 production of Clybourne Park, where she learned the importance of delving into research to better understand her characters. “The process was life-changing,” reveals Johnson.

While nourishing her own creative soul, Johnson seems intent on bettering the lives of others. She is involved in a group called the Shenandoah Valley Justice Initiative (SVJI), which raises awareness of human trafficking and forced labor. As a Christian, she is involved in InterVarsity (IV) on campus and is coordinating the Passion: Take It All Tour to be held at Wilson Hall in November. Johnson also assists in the School of Theatre and Dance office, and is a member of Stratford Players and the honors theatre fraternity, Alpha Psi Omega (ASO).

As for her future, Johnson sees herself as a storyteller who has been gifted with the opportunity to tell someone else’s story no matter how “painful, intense or joyful.” While she insists on taking “one step at a time,” Johnson says she enjoys travelling and seeing places, and would one day welcome the chance to perform on a cruise or a national tour of a show. Johnson believes she is “called to be the best” at whatever she does and that means being around the people who are the best at what they do. So, New York is also on the radar for performing and possibility even directing. “Whether it’s in New York or Atlanta, I feel like I’ll eventually become a director because I have such a passion for seeing people reach their potential.”

Published: Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Last Updated: Wednesday, August 9, 2017

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