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Roberta Jones Junior Theatre’s Kevin Cornelius Prepares to Enter a New Stage of Life

Kevin Cornelius was 11 years old when he played a puppet in Roberta Jones Junior Theatre’s (RJJT) 1979 production of “Pinocchio.” Cornelius went on to perform in about 35 to 40 shows with the junior theater. In 2001, Cornelius joined the City of Santa Clara’s Parks and Recreation Department as a Recreation Supervisor so he could produce and direct RJJT shows. Cornelius has worked with an estimated 4,500 students on about 80 to 90 shows as production staff.

After almost 19 years working with RJJT, Cornelius will be retiring on Nov. 16.

“I’m retiring because we have my son and we have our twins due Nov. 14,” Cornelius said. “I’ll be retiring my full-time job so I can focus on my three kids. I will also be working part-time as a therapist and working on finishing up my license. I currently work and will continue to work at the Feeling Good Institute in Mountain View, California.”

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Cornelius holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from San Jose State University and a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from the Phillips Graduate Institute.

“I had been working as an actor in New York and Los Angeles for 10 years after college,” Cornelius said. “When I was in New York, I worked for the National Park Service at the Statue of Liberty at the Ellis Island National Monument. I co-wrote and performed a play called the Ellis Island Stories which is about the narratives of the immigrants who came through Ellis Island during the early 20th century, from 1890 to 1924. In New York, I also did a touring production of the musical version of ‘Freaky Friday.’

“In Los Angeles, I continued to study acting,” Cornelius continued. “I played a small role on an episode of ‘Sliders’ on the Sci-Fi Channel. I used to be a member of Actors Equity Association. And then I decided to go back to graduate school and get my degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, thinking I would be a licensed therapist right away. But the opportunity to be the Director of the junior theater opened up. I applied and got the position.”

When Cornelius got the job, he was able to use the skills he had from acting, technical theater, and working with children and parents. One of Cornelius’s favorite things about working for the junior theatre has been watching the participating children grow up.

“When I was working with RJJT, I got involved in the local theater community in the South Bay,” Cornelius said. “I got to build relationships with great places, such as the South Bay Musical Theatre in Saratoga. The relationship has been helpful to our theater group.”

Cornelius plans to bring his children to future RJJT shows so they can grow a lifelong interest in live theater.

“RJJT has been a really important and special part of my life,” Cornelius said. “For 32 years, Roberta ran the group and produced the shows and directed many of them. I’m grateful and thankful to Roberta, the staff I got to work with, the participants and their families. It has been an honor to continue the work that Roberta did and to work with so many wonderful people. I’m excited to see how RJJT continues onto the future.”

A farewell party and potluck for Cornelius will take place on Thurs. Oct. 24 from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Teen Center at 2446 Cabrillo Ave. in Santa Clara. Attendees can bring appetizers and desserts to share. Please RSVP to atran1@santaclaraca.gov.

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