Jan Van Paris has taught elementary school for over twenty years and is a teacher at the Danville Community Middle School. She and her husband, Jeff Van Paris who is a teacher in Plainfield, are also co-owners of The Biz Academy of Musical Theatre in Avon, Indiana.
They met when they were students at Ball State University. They were both very active in the theatre department and it was their mutual love of the theatre that brought them together. They married and had two children. Their children also have a natural love of the theatre and began performing when they were young.
When they first moved to the area they became active in the Hendricks County Civic Theatre. Their daughter, Alexandria, was six and auditioned for Annie. Not to be left in the wings, her Dad auditioned too. Both were cast. “After that Jeff and Alex did a lot of theatre together. Then when our son came along, he joined in,” Jan fondly remembers.
It was the family’s love of the performing arts that prompted them to open The Biz in August 2012. “We wanted to provide a resource for students who want to perform. We offer tap, contemporary lyrical ballet, jazz hip-hop, as well as acting and voice lessons,” said Van Paris.
One of their unique programs is “My Time to Shine”. It is an opportunity for people with special needs to perform. One of the Biz instructors, Julie Kays, works with special needs professionally. Kays and Van Paris started the program five years ago when they paired Biz Kids with special needs kids and adults for a performance. The Biz Kids act as mentors onstage with the special needs person.
“It was a hit! If you ever want to go to a performance and cry, this is the one to go to,” said Van Paris.
The age of the special needs actors varies from children, teenagers, young and older adults. The oldest special needs person so far has been 52.
“We have a teenager who is pretty high up on the autism spectrum. He is highly intelligent and knows everyone’s line in the entire show. He has done several shows with the Hendricks Civic Theatre and was in our production of Jekyll and Hyde The Musical,” relates Van Paris. “This program has provided opportunities they wouldn’t have normally. That is the beauty of the program.”
This year’s “My Time to Shine” production is The Wizard of Oz, August 17 and 18. Visit www.thebiz-academy.com for more information.