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Community Highlights: Meet Julia Condon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julia Condon.

Hi Julia, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’d always imagined myself on a “normal” path- going to college, graduating with honors by the age of 21, becoming “successful” in the eyes of my peers. When my chronic illness (Lyme Disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and Mold illness) made that trajectory impossible, I wondered what I could possibly do instead. The year of 2018 was a dark time in which I felt like a failure. I watched from afar as my friends continued their College educations. Of course, I wanted them to succeed. But I also wanted to succeed along with them. I spent a lot of time thinking about the things I’d do one day when life was better. I’ve always loved the performing arts, but my symptoms were preventing me from getting back on stage.

It was my mother who encouraged me to pursue character entertainment. It seemed like a great option- I could get back to performing without the stressful auditions and late rehearsal schedules. In fact, I could build my own schedule, taking on only as many events as I could handle.

So, in 2019, I opened my first character entertainment company, Ever After KC. I soon realized that Princess appearances had an amazing ability to bring people together. People of all ages, races, gender identities and religions waited in line to take pictures of their children in the lap of a Princess. The children I met just wanted to be loved. And in those moments, nothing else mattered. It didn’t matter if they were from a different background or if they spoke a different language. Kids need validation and one-on-one interactions. I could tell it meant the world when I, dressed as a Princess, looked a child in the eyes and said things like, “you matter,” “you are loved,” or “you are beautiful.” As I slowly healed, I took on more events and recruited more actors. By early 2020, I had gone from offering one Princess to having seven Princesses to choose from.

Covid-19 slowed the expansion of Ever After KC, but we quickly adapted to offering video calls, personalized video messages, socially distanced performances and masked events.

In the Fall of 2020, I was contacted by Madeline Clem, another small business owner. She owned Upon A Dream, another character appearance company serving the Kansas City metro. Madeline was moving away and looking for someone to continue her business and lead her team of talented actors. So, unexpectedly, I merged the two companies. We kept the name Upon A Dream, as well as some of our favorite Ever After costumes and party traditions. Today, my health has improved tremendously, and we are booking multiple parties and events every weekend. I still perform as often as I can.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Definitely not smooth. Being a young business owner has been a learning curve. I’ve found that some people underestimate my capabilities and the work that I do. I think there are several reasons for this. Firstly, I’m young and female. Secondly, people who don’t work in the entertainment industry often don’t realize just what goes into putting on an event.

There’s a huge difference between hiring a professional entertainer and hiring, say, a local high school student to show up in a princess dress they bought from Amazon. Parents who aren’t familiar with the entertainment industry are sometimes put off by the cost of hiring a Princess Performer.

They don’t realize that they’re paying for: High quality, custom made costumes commissioned by professionals. High-quality wigs that are restyled between uses. Actors with vocal and improvisational training, who are always prepared to answer questions from even the most skeptical children. Adults capable of commanding a room of 20+ children and holding their attention while keeping activities organized and running on time.

Besides being underestimated, I have had to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, as mentioned previously and do my part to educate myself on the history of racism in the entertainment industry so that I can combat it in my business practices.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Most of our events are children’s birthday parties. We travel to the client’s home or venue of choice to entertain. Our activities include: Live sing-alongs, character-themed games, princess lessons with affirmations and a birthday coronation, storytelling and photo opportunities.

We have also done public and corporate events. Public events are usually what we call meet-and-greet events. In other words, the characters are stationary and the guests wait in line to have their picture taken with the characters. These types of events are great for drawing traffic or boosting sales at stores, shops, rec centers, etc.

One of the things I’m most proud of is my team’s commitment to inclusivity and equality. At our recent cast meeting, we were discussing the importance of racial representation. We believe that it’s important for children of every race, ethnicity, and background to see themselves being positively represented. We also believe that it’s important for caucasian children to see people of color in leadership roles.

Some of the steps I’ve taken to promote equality include: Educating myself on the entertainment industry’s dark history of racism. Hiring more performers of color. Offering transcendent casting options. Upgrading the costumes of BIPOC characters to ensure that they are being portrayed in the best light and get the attention they deserve. Ensuring that BIPOC characters are ONLY played by BIPOC actors (unfortunately, not all companies do this).

What’s next?
I’d love to move towards doing more public events. Rather than meet-and-greets, I’d love to offer ticketed “Princess Balls.” It would be so fun to move towards dinner theatre-style character events, especially around the holidays. I’d also love to have a brick-and-mortar (physical location) one day. I think it would be great for the parents who want to give their child a princess party but don’t want to host it themselves.

Contact Info:

Image Credits

Tavis Meier Imagery Kristina Holcomb Photography

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