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All the world’s a stage for talented Johnae

Johnae Tucker, 21, will tour the world with the Up With People educational and performance group

“Theatre has been my life, all my life.” This is how Johnae Tucker, 21, sums up her love of the stage.

Now she is preparing to step into the unknown as the latest Bermudian to join Up With People, the world-touring educational and performance group.

Exhilarated at the prospect of seeing new countries with a crew of fellow artists, Johnae said she enjoyed being out of her depth.

“I like being around professional people who know way more than me, so I can eventually get to that place,” she said.

Her family always viewed her as a drama queen.

Johnae’s first performance was playing Cinderella as a child in Paget Primary School.

“Every since then I’ve been part of every single production and play that I could,” she said.

A Bermuda Musical & Dramatic Society regular — she was in the recent production of Sister Act — Johnae broadened her horizons in the Troika production of Beauty and the Beast.

An ardent fan of Broadway, Johnae “never though of myself having a singing voice”, but has been pleasantly surprised at the results.

She also dances every Sunday with a team at her church, Cornerstone Bible Fellowship.

Other than hearing about the programme when a fellow Berkeley Institute student joined, she knew little about Up With People.

Nonetheless, she kept hearing about it: family friend Oneeka Williams extolled the globetrotting performance group to her mother, Karen Tucker, and earlier this year Zachary Kawaley-Lathan, who she knew from the BMDS panto, joined the cast.

The programme takes students between the ages of 17 and 29 from around the world, touring internationally with nearly 100 participants and staying with host families.

Johnae applied online, telling organisers about herself and then discussing it further in a telephone interview.

Johnae glanced at her phone during a friend’s wedding on July 24 and “sat there speechless” upon realising she had been accepted.

The excitement was picked up by her mother, sister Crystal Dill and father John Tucker, who has been regaling her ever since with the Up With People theme song.

Admitting she has travelled only a little, Johnae said: “I feel like I’m going to go into culture shock. My friend Kayla Harris reassures me that culture shock is a good thing.”

She sets off for six months in January through countries ranging from Mexico to Switzerland to Denmark, as well as diverse communities across the United States.

Johnae said the group planned to stop in Bermuda during April, which will put her at an advantage on her home turf.

Her future sights are set on a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theatre at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Johnae has also studied psychology and feels inclined towards teaching theatre to disabled young people — knowing first-hand the power of music and performance as an outlet.

“I’m just going to go for it,” she said.

She thanked her family, including her Aunt Eva, who has “consistently gone out of her way just to attend the many performances I have been a part of”.

Along with her Cornerstone family and her supportive friends, Johnae gave special thanks to Steve Huntsman at Troika for bringing her on board for Beauty and the Beast.

“God has given me specific gifts, talents and abilities, and I’m not settling for something that I won’t love for the rest of my life,” she said.

“I love theatre, and it’s something I will pursue to the ends of the Earth.”