Three weeks after earning her degree in December 2014, Abby Jaros sat on her bed alongside her parents in a packed-up apartment.
All at once, Jaros realized the leap she was about to take in moving to New York City to pursue a career in theater. She questioned herself: Is this really what I should do?
“My dad said, ‘You know what, Abby? If not you, who?’” Jaros recalled. “And that is a confidence that I have to take with me everywhere that I go.”
Since then, Jaros has appeared in several regional theater productions and is fresh off her first national tour for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The tour spanned nine months and included a trip to Japan.
Recently, she returned to UCF’s School of Performing Arts to conduct an informational workshop with students. As someone who has navigated the ins and outs of making it in the city on her own, Jaros wanted to provide some guidance to the school that became like a family to her.
“From the second I stepped foot on this campus, it felt like home. The people here were so welcoming,” she said. “In life, you really have to thank the people who put themselves out there for you. And this was the only school that did. I am forever thankful to people who go out on a limb for me. I’m thankful to represent UCF.”
Jaros was as a dancer in her early years. She always viewed it as a hobby until she started musical theater in high school as a creative outlet.
She intended to study marine biology in college. Her parents were supportive of her passion for theatre, but also leaned on the side of practicality when it came to her future career path.
That all changed when Jaros attended Broadway Theater Project, a three-week intensive-learning experience under the direction of Broadway directors, choreographers, casting directors and producers.
Before her final showcase of the project, with her parents sitting in the audience, Jaros was given the Gregory Hines Scholarship, presented to students who show artistic merit. The scholarship offers training and performance opportunities and encourages pre-professional-level students to continue with their studies with on-stage performing experience.
She’ll never forget the date, Aug. 1, 2010, when her parents encouraged her to follow her dreams.
“They said they were 100 percent behind me because of getting the scholarship that day,” she said. “They said, ‘We will accompany you to any audition you want to go to. Whatever you want, we will do whatever it takes.’”
Since moving to New York City, the musical theater alumna is constantly on the move. She has been seen for commercial work, television and film roles and of course, theater work.
She is helping a fellow UCF alumnus work on his script for a feature film. She has been featured on the Dancers of New York blog and had a personal project video go viral on YouTube.
When her friends invited her on a weekend getaway to Walt Disney World, she booked her trip with some extra days set aside to visit UCF.
“I wanted to come and see my alma mater and really give back because they gave me so much. I think that’s the most important thing – remembering your roots and where you came from,” she said. “A lot of alums from here help me up in New York. It’s such a great community.”
Jaros covered the basics – who photographs good headshots, social media tricks to finding an affordable place to live, and where to attend worthwhile classes.
She also offered up words of encouragement, motivating the students to put themselves out there and connect with people.
When she recounted her story of the insecurity she felt before making the leap to New York, senior Amanda Hornberger wiped away tears. Hornberger said it was comforting and helpful to learn from someone who understands the journey that she herself is trying to pursue.
“What I loved that she kept saying was: ‘Find your people. We are a community.’ That’s why I do theater and performing to begin with because I found a community of people here,” Hornberger said. “There is something special about people in the arts. They understand how to be there for each other.”