Jake Ferguson, 8, likes baseball, Taekwondo — and acting.
A second-grader in Mrs. Knowles class at Key West’s Poinciana Elementary School, Jake is not a newcomer to the stage. He had a lead role in his kindergarten class production and has attended a youth theater training program in Key West called Camp Bravo.
But this production is different. He has a major role in the Waterfront Playhouse’s presentation of “Mothers and Sons” by Terrence McNally and will share the stage with veteran actors Joy Hawkins (“Doubt” and “ Glass Menagerie”), Matt McGrath (Broadway’s “Cabaret” and TV’s “Modern Family”) and Trey Gerrald (TV’s “Orange is the New Black,” and the new movie “Wiener-Dog“).
Jake was spotted by “Mothers and Sons” director, Murphy Davis, in last summer’s Camp Bravo production of “The Aristocats,” in which Jake played Roquefort the Mouse. Murphy knew instinctly that Jake was the kid they were looking for. “Jake is such an extraordinary little guy — he’s a crackerjack!” Murphy said. “He’s enthusiastic and a delight to work with. Along with the rest of the cast, Jake helps create a family we care deeply about and root for.”
Penny Leto, co-artistic director of Bravo Theatre Company, agrees: “We noticed how special Jake was right away. Jake is so bright, smart, kind and eager to explore. He loves the stage, works hard and was always prepared knowing his lines, vocals, choreography and staging. We are so proud of him and glad we are able to help him on his way to becoming all that he can be!”
Jake lives in midtown Key West with his parents, Ali Ferguson, who is a sales executive for Premier Beverages, Andy Ferguson, who is general manager at Charlie Mac’s and their two rescue dogs, Zeke and Molly. Ali and Andy are thrilled and very proud of their son.
“When Andy and I first saw Jake in his kindergarten play, we were shocked. He had a big role with a lot of lines and we knew nothing about this,” said Ali. “That’s when he fell in love with the theater and he’s been in love ever since.”
Ali works with Jake on his lines every day and Jake is already “off book” – meaning that he has memorized his part in the play. And like every actor, young and old, he knows exactly how many lines he has: “I have 59 lines – that’s a lot of words! — and I know them all. My mom reads them with me every day before bedtime, in the afternoon, whenever we can.”
In “Mothers and Sons,” Jake plays Bud, the young son of gay couple Cal and Will (played by Matt McGrath and Trey Gerrald). Katherine (who is played by Joy Hawkins and is the mother of Cal’s former, deceased partner) makes a surprise visit to their New York apartment and causes an immediate upheaval in their lives. Whereas Katherine and Cal were never close, Bud develops an instant relationship with his “almost” grandmother. Bud touches Katherine’s heart in ways she didn’t think were possible any more – and their relationship becomes an important story line in this play.
“I am super-excited to be doing this show,” Jake told us. “I love acting. The only tough part is that I’m the only kid in the show. Although I guess that makes it kind of special for me, too.”
Jake says that he’s learned a lot from his fellow actors in “Mothers and Sons.” According to Jake, “The most important thing is to look at other people when you talk to them and don’t miss your cue. You want the audience to think that it’s real life and that they’re watching real people talk to each other.”
“Jake is smart as a whip and I could learn a thing or two from his incredible concentration,” fellow cast member Trey Gerrald said. “And, he never leaves without giving you a big hug. He is great fun to work with.”
Joy Hawkins agrees: “We are all rather in love with Jake. He is just so amazingly mature for his age and yet there is no ‘stage kid’ about him. Just a genuine, smart, sweet young guy that has won our hearts.”
At the age of eight, Jake already has advice for “younger” actors: “Concentrate. Learn your lines. Don’t get nervous. And most important, have fun.”
Jake sounds like a pro already.
Mothers and Sons opens at the Waterfront Playhouse on Thursday, Jan. 28 and runs through Feb. 13. Tickets are available online at WaterfrontPlayhouse.org or by calling the box office at 305-294-5015.