February is here! And with it comes Galentines and Valentines, Groundhog Day and Leap Day...but the most important date on our calendar's this February is the social gathering of the season...the PSQ party of the year...JUMP BACK BALL! The countdown is on to Jump Back Ball 2024 and this year's theme is so bad it's good! “Villains Unleashed: A Night of Chaos.”
We recently sat down with Partners Board Member and Jump Back Ball Fundraising Co-Chair Maria Smith to hear about her experiences with Playhouse Square's young professional’s group Partners, as well as what people can expect from this year’s Jump Back Ball.
PSQ: How did you get involved with Partners?
Maria Smith: I’ve been involved in the community in a lot of different ways over the years, and I always want to do things that benefit Cleveland. As a technologist, I don’t get a lot of exposure to the arts. KeyBank CIO and former Playhouse Square Board of Trustees Chair Amy Brady recommended that I, along with some other staffers from KeyBank, get involved with Partners. I joined the group in November 2022 and ended up bringing a few more people with me as a way for all of us to do something together.
I was so nervous for my first meeting, but then everyone was so kind and welcoming. I dove into the meetings, and anytime there was an event, I was in attendance.
By the time Shop Nights for Jump Back Ball rolled around, I was sold with this group. People would come up to me and remember my name, want me to participate in certain projects and just keep getting me involved. That’s what got me excited to join the Partners Board. I thought this is something I can help with and contribute to something that is bigger than ourselves. I’m super honored to be a part of this Board and further this organization.
PSQ: For those that have never attended Jump Back Ball, can you tell us a little bit more about the event, and who it benefits?
Smith: Jump Back Ball is our [Partners’] biggest event of the year, and it raises funds for Playhouse Square’s education initiatives. For example, it benefits things like bus subsidy programs, Disney Musicals in Schools, the Dazzle Awards and sensory-friendly programming. There’s so much more going on than most people realize when it comes to education at Playhouse Square. And Partners is also helping to fund the next big ideas that could impact education programming at the organization. It’s a fun night with everyone dressed up, some in costumes, dancing, drinks and things like raffle baskets and games of chance. At the end of the event, you feel that warmth and community with more than 500 people. It’s a rush.
PSQ: What was your first experience with Jump Back Ball?
Smith: I went to my first Jump Back Ball prior to even joining Partners. It was an awards show theme, so everyone was dressed up. I don’t think I even realized what we were all raising money for at that time. Now that I actually understand the impact, it’s that much more important to me. It’s such a rewarding experience. I also went to last year’s event which was “A Night on the High Seas” theme. There was a mix of everything from Disney to under the sea to Pirates of the Caribbean. It was different and a lot of fun. The great thing is you can be dressed like the king and queen of the ball or you could go completely in costume.
PSQ: What is this year’s Jump Back Ball theme?
Smith: This year’s theme is Villains. The special thing about it is I think it has the ability to cover a broad range of movies, TV, comic books to things like old westerns and James Bond. You won’t see Halloween things like pumpkins or monsters, but rather, how can we bring in other worlds that have villains and bring their perspectives to life. I think it’s going to blow people’s minds what we’re able to transform the space into.
PSQ: Do you have your costume ready for Jump Back Ball?
Smith: My fiancé and I have thought carefully about this. Yes, we have our costume idea, but it also depends on what I’m able to find. He’s going more comic book, while mine is more of a mix, so I’m going to keep it a surprise. I recommend renting a dress if you’re able to - especially if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on an outfit and be sustainable.
PSQ: What is your favorite thing about Jump Back Ball?
Smith: My favorite part is seeing everything for the event come together. Things are so disjointed as we are building the different set pieces and decorations; but when you see it finished in the theaters and lobbies with the lights and feel the energy in the space, it’s such a cool experience. I think it’s also amazing to see other people’s reactions to what we have created.
PSQ: What might you say to someone who is on the fence about going?
Smith: If people can consider this as an investment in their community and an opportunity to provide something for others, then I think it puts a completely different perspective on Jump Back Ball. It’s for the kids that truly appreciate it.
PSQ: What would you say to someone who might be considering joining Partners?
Smith: We all need some kind of community. And what would make someone want to join a group like Partners is the way the people embrace everyone’s difference and unique qualities. What I love most about Partners is we are all such different people, yet we get along so well. I think it’s because we bring all those different careers and personalities to the table.
The greatest part is that we are not doing this because it’s for our own benefit. We’re doing this because there are kids out there – whether they love theater or just need an opportunity to get involved in a community. We have a way to help fundraise and provide for that.
There are also so many different levels of involvement. You don’t have to run the show or be on the Board. You can be someone who is there contributing ideas and new perspectives, or you can just participate and make those connections.
I am not a theater genius, and while there is a huge part of the group that knows everything about the shows, I can appreciate the passion behind that. Joining a community like this will only add value to your life. You can show up as your authentic self, and we’re ready to welcome you.
Playhouse Square is such a huge thing for Cleveland and the nation. And being a part of something so remarkable and memorable will have a positive impact on people who want to be involved with it.
To learn more about Jump Back Ball and to purchase tickets, click here.