HE CAUGHT THE theater bug when he was 7 years old watching “Lassie” on TV. “I can do that,” he thought to himself.
As a young boy, John Provost grew up in Newport Beach – right on the peninsula. On sunny days water sports called his name and he grew up competing on both the water polo and swim teams. In his freshman year of high school, he saw “Carousel” and loved it. He wanted to take drama classes but was told it wasn’t possible at Newport Beach High School until junior year. When he was finally able to participate, he recalls appreciating the influence of his wonderful drama teacher, Robert Wince, who encouraged him to audition for Damn Yankees; he was cast as the Devil. Every day, after swim practice, he would wipe the water out of his eyes, and arrive at rehearsal prepared to go on stage. “It was magical for me!” he shares fondly of that time. He remained involved until graduation, and later took summer classes at the South Coast Repertory Theatre in Newport Beach.
John received an NROTC scholarship to UCLA, serving in the Naval reserves from 1969-1971. As an undergraduate at UCLA, majoring in political science with a minor in economics, he became involved in the theater department, but was never cast in major parts because it was not his primary area of study. After graduating from UCLA in 1973, he took and passed the LSAT, and also auditioned for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, a two-year program. He was accepted, and promptly moved to Manhattan in January 1974. This offered him the opportunity to work in theatre, performing in different areas of the east, but he never got to Broadway.
For John, the personal experience of being in a play was always more important than the applause. For him, the business of becoming an actor was just as much about working behind the scenes – making contacts, and being in the right place at the right time – as it was about acting on stage. Feeling that it wasn’t the right thing for him, John returned to California, enrolled in UCLA School of Law, married his wife Nancy, and started living his own life.
In the end, John’s experience as a lawyer was much more dramatic than what he could do on stage. As an attorney, he worked in Labor and Employment Law – dealing with individuals who were having traumatic issues in their own lives. He later worked for the US Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California in LA. He was involved with the Camerena Trial from 1989-1999 and later defended Phillip Morris in the tobacco litigation trials.
In 1994, John began singing in the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center choir. In 2007 he was asked to participate in the temple production of “Fiddler on the Roof” and, although reluctant to get involved, he agreed. After 30-plus years, John was back on the stage and had so much fun working together with the cast that he hasn’t stopped. He has been involved in almost every production of the JFed Players, a program provided by the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, where he is currently playing one of the leads in “Curtains.”
“People would be amazed at how much time, energy, and emotion goes into our productions,” he shares. “It is sometimes hard for new people, when they get involved and realize how much of a commitment it is, but the connection that is fostered among the group always brings people back. The JFed Players binds us together as members of the Jewish community who might not otherwise have such a strong connection.”
Join the Jewish Federation’s JFed Players at their upcoming production of “Curtains” opening Saturday March 18th at The Clarke Center in Arcadia. More information and tickets are available on the Jewish Federation website: jewishsgpv.org.
Cantor Judy Sofer is a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.