Whit Jury: A New Stage

One of City’s brightest performers reflects on a high school experience spent in the arts, and on what’s next


Anna Gayley

Jury performs as Edward Bloom in City’s award-winning production of Big Fish the Musical

Esther Puderbaugh, A&E Editor and Opinion Co-Editor

A notification pops up on my phone. Whit is on his way to our interview. I text him back saying we can meet in the music wing. 

Over the past three years, City’s music wing has been, in many ways, a second home for Whit Jury ‘23. Since their freshman year, Jury has been involved in choir, show choir, drama, speech, and recently co-founded CHS SMAC (City High School’s Student Managed Actors and Crew). Jury has also been selected for the Iowa All-State Chorus and was nominated for an award at the Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards for his lead role of Edward Bloom in City’s production of Big Fish. 

Despite all of these achievements over the past years, Jury’s high school experience is far from his first exposure to performing arts. They cite their artistic family as fuel for their interest in performance. 

“My immediate family is entirely arts, but different facets of it,” Jury said. “Me and my sister, Thomazin (Jury ‘21), are in the performing part of it. My mom [was] an art teacher, and my dad works with film. [He’s] a writer and he’s been a director before and a producer of things. So [that’s] a branch off of the performance Thomazin and I have.”

When he was seven years old, Jury remembers vividly seeing Thomazin in a dance recital and deciding he wanted to perform.

“I saw my sister perform in this dance recital [that] was based on fairy tales,” Jury said. “I thought it was the best thing in the world.”

Jury’s draw to performance was his love of playing pretend as a kid.

“I always liked playing pretend as a kid. Just [to] come up with my own ways of being a character,” Jury said. “I kept with it because I was always having fun. And that’s all I really want when I go to perform: I just want to have fun and entertain the audience. If I’m having fun then the audience will be having fun.”

One of Jury’s favorite memories from their years in performing arts at City is last year’s musical, Big Fish.

“I think that the highest highlight I’ve had here at City has been during Big Fish,” Jury said. “But during that show, I also had some of the lowest lows.”

Jury is particularly grateful for his castmates who helped him during that time.

“There were just so many touching moments and I have such a personal connection with [Big Fish] and the people involved with it,” Jury said. I just felt like I bonded with everyone in the cast like I had never connected with any other cast before. I was able to really open up and be true about how I feel and I’m really glad I was able to have been able to do that with [that] group of people.”

Jury feels that the performing arts have changed their life. 

“I think being in theater, I don’t think I would [be] as in tune with myself [and] my identity,” Jury said. “Most of the time with theater it’s a really welcoming community, and I feel like I never got that kind of a community when I did sports. Even if it was cooperative, sometimes it never felt like we were really with one another and I always felt like with performing in theater, it had more of a tight knit feeling. I just felt a lot closer with the individual people and got to have that time to talk and understand them more.”

Jury also feels that performing has helped his mental health.

“A lot of things [have] happened in the theater and learning how to work through that has helped me a lot with just working through everyday things,” Jury said. “Dealing with how to be on stage has helped me with social anxiety; and strategies cannot only help you on the stage, but also just in daily life.”

Jury is going to take a gap year after this year and has plans to continue performing. They will carry a memory from Matilda the Musical with them past their high school years. 

“During the senior speeches [for Matilda], Rachel Meehan (‘21) went up. She said something that really stuck with me [and] I’ve kept [it] as a personal mantra,” Jury said. “She said ‘life is too short not to say “I love you.”’ And I just really resonated with that and I started connecting with people and talking to people more often. It was a jumping [off] point for me to just be more confident.”

While Meehan’s advice has had a large impact on Jury, his advice for other performers is personal as well. 

“Don’t ever apologize for doing the best you can do because the best you can do is the best anyone’s going to get,” Jury said. “Don’t be afraid to be you, and don’t be sorry for being you,”