BY SYDNEY BORTON
The family of a Sheridan graduate has found a beautiful way to memorialize him after his death.
The Jonah McIntosh Memorial Scholarship fundraiser was announced via a GoFundMe page on Aug. 16, which would have been Jonah’s 23rd birthday. The Bachelor of Music Theatre graduate died on July 11.
The scholarship was announced in co-operation with Sheridan College in order to honour Jonah and to recognize “the importance of continuing education, specifically for future Sheridan music theatre students.” His family believes the scholarship will help keep Jonah’s spirit and energy alive, as well as inspire and encourage future students.
The young actor touched the hearts of many people he met. Alessandro Costantini, founder of YES Theatre in Sudbury, met Jonah last year when he auditioned for a production of the musical Hairspray. “I had cast him, but unfortunately he had to bow out of the show due to a conflict with another contract,” said Costantini. “He was a lovely guy and very kind.”
Another YES Theatre company member, Jake Deeth, also met Jonah around the time of his Hairspray audition. “He seemed like a really nice and gracious guy, and very talented, to say the least,” said Deeth.
Deeth believes the scholarship is a “great idea”. “Financial support is a huge part of succeeding at a theatre school where hours are spent working and studying, rather than working a part time job.” he said. “I hope the scholarship will also spotlight mental health among youth, not only for those going through it to seek help, but also for people to study and see the warning signs in others and ourselves.”
Costantini had a similar view, saying “I think it will also act as a reminder for these young artists to take care of each other. The industry can be difficult and scary. We need to make sure we are sensitive and caring towards each other.”
Greg Liow, a current third year student in the Bachelor of Music Theatre program at Sheridan, said that Jonah is the closest person in his social circle to have ever taken his life.
“The timing of this was very interesting for the MT program,” said Liow. Dear Evan Hansen had just won the Tony Award for Best Musical. The show follows the aftermath of a young boy committing suicide and explores themes of people “grieving for a grief that isn’t theirs”, which Liow found resonated with him as he personally dealt with the aftermath of Jonah’s death.
Jonah was performing in the productions of Me and My Girl and 1837: Farmer’s Revolt at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Cameron M. Grant, another Shaw Festival performer, was Jonah’s roommate during the summer. “Anyone who knew Jonah knew his talent was so incredible that his dreams to become a star never seemed unattainable,” said Grant. “It was only a matter of time.”
“I think the scholarship is a beautiful way to memorialize Jonah and help future students in their training to turn dreams into a reality,” said Grant. “Hopefully this scholarship will inspire its recipients to always work hard, dream big, and take pride in our work as performers.”
As of Oct. 4, more than $14,000 has been raised.