Albion native Jake Hayes stays very busy performing in Buffalo theater

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 September 2023 at 1:21 pm

Hayes, 33, currently part of cast in The Color Purple at Shea’s 710 Theatre

Provided photos: Jake Hayes has starred in the Western New York theater for the past decade, doing a variety of characters, from silly to serious. In the top photos he is the Beast, left, in Beauty and the Beast, and Sebastian in Little Mermaid.

BUFFALO – Jake Hayes is one of the hardest working people in Buffalo show business.

The Albion native performs in four or five different productions a year. He is currently in the cast for The Color Purple at Shea’s 710 Theatre. The show started Sept. 14 and runs until Oct. 1. Click here for ticket information.

“Jake is a dynamic force both off and onstage,” said Kristin Bentley, executive director for The Color Purple for Second Generation Theatre. “He’s able to bring a smile to your face with his charm and charisma then seamlessly move you to the edge of your seat with his powerful commitment.”

Hayes, 33, works a full-time job during the day as activities director for a nursing home in Buffalo. In the evening, he is often rehearsing for a show or performing for a live audience.

Jake Hayes, back right, is currently in the cast of The Color Purple at Shea’s 710 Theatre in Buffalo. He is in the ensemble and also plays Buster and a prison guard in the production. The show runs until Oct. 1. (Photo by Stephen Gabris)

Hayes said he is a people-person and feels energized on stage in front of hundreds and sometimes thousands of people. He also is thrilled to be running programs for the senior citizens at the nursing home.

“I’ve been very fortunate to work a full schedule,” Hayes said in a recent interview in Albion. “I’m always in shows.”

He has performed at The Place Theatre in Lockport, Shakespeare at Delaware Park, Shea’s Smith Theatre in Buffalo, Shea’s 710 Theatre in Buffalo and other venues.

“This is a total artform for me,” Hayes said. “I love telling stories.”

Hayes was a star in the Albion High School musicals. He pursued theater after being encouraged to give it a try by his friends. Hayes wasn’t in a show until he was a sophomore. He played baseball and that schedule didn’t allow him to be in the spring musicals.

But after being injured and unable to play as a 10th grader, Hayes tried out for the musical. He had a small part as a servant in the ensemble of Into the Woods. He felt an immediate connection with the theater. He loved being on stage and among the cast and crew.

The Albion crowd in the middle school auditorium gave a thunderous applause for the students on stage. Hayes said it was overwhelming.

“To get that from peers and the community was just amazing,” he said.

Jake Hayes has performed in Little Shop of Horrors. He is shown at right with a nomination for best character performance for Little Shop of Horrors.

As a junior he played a lead role, the character Laurie in Little Woman and was recognized at The Stars of Tomorrow, honoring the top high school theater talent among high schools in the Rochester area. As a senior he played the lead role of Harold Hill in The Music Man. (Hayes twice has played Laurie as in adult in other productions of Little Women.)

Hayes felt his confidence grow on stage. He credited Gary Simboli, the musical director at the time, for helping him to read music and to refine a stage presence.

Simboli also was the high school choir director, and Hayes served as the group’s president. He said that experience helped him to grow as a leader.

“I owe a huge portion of my talent and abilities to him,” Hayes said about Simboli. “I got brave and audacity from being in the choir. Gary showed me that I’m valuable.”

Hayes made his debut singing in public before he was in the school musicals. He was 9 years old when he did his first solo at the Shiloh Baptist Church (where his cousin Trellis Pore is now pastor). Jake’s mother, Dolores Patterson, was the choir director. Hayes still has a strong recollection of singing the gospel song, “Have You Heard of The City Paved With Gold.” He was so nervous to sing in front of the crowd.

“I was absolutely terrified,” he said.

The church made the youth speak publicly, sharing a highlight of the week. They were urged to be part of the choir.

After graduated from Albion, Hayes earned a degree in communication/mass media at Pace University in New York City, with a minor in acting. He graduated in 2013. He didn’t stay in NYC. He came close to home to be near family. His grandmother passed away less than a month after he graduated.

Hayes still wanted to be in theater and tried the local community group, Lake Plains Players. The group in the fall 2013 was performing an ambitious show, Les Misérables. Hayes tried out and landed one of the big roles, Marius, the lover of Cosette and a revolutionary.

From there Hayes performed at the Palace Theatre, including as Donkey in Shrek, and now is a sought after performer in Buffalo, earning money for the roles. He saves the money he earns at theater to travel. He and his girlfriend recently went to Thailand. Hayes is planning to take his mom on his next trip to Puerto Rico.

Jake Hayes performs in about four or five different productions a year. He was recently on the cover of the Buffalo Spree magazine in an issue promoting the upcoming theater season in Buffalo.

Hayes said he is so grateful to be in a different show about every 10 weeks, while still doing a full-time job in the day and being close to family. For many of the shows it’s a demanding month of rehearsals, typically from 6 p.m. to 10-10:30. Then the productions often have a three-week run.

In one play, Once in a Lifetime, the Buffalo-focused show had the Bills winning the Super Bowl. Hayes is currently part of The Color Purple, a musical where hundreds auditioned to be in the cast of 17. It is a powerful African American story from the early 20th century to mid 20th century.

Hayes works with many actors and directors who have Broadway experience. He encouraged people from Orleans County to attend a show in Buffalo or Lockport and see the talent on stage, and be moved by the story being presented.

He said he is living his dream by working with so many talented people in the Buffalo theater community. New York City is viewed as a the ultimate destination for theater, but Hayes said Buffalo has given him so many opportunities. It’s similar in many smaller large cities.

“You can have a strong variety-filled career working in cities such as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Wichita, Kansas,” Hayes said. “For someone like me you want to be able to perform and express your artform. In Buffalo I get to splurge on life because I get to do my hobby almost full-time.”