Rory Johnston acted in his first movie at age 7, in the John Wayne film McClintock. He acted his first play in middle school and debuted his directing skills in high school. Before he graduated he was teaching drama classes at the middle school, receiving an Award of Merit for doing so. His mother, a Theater Arts teacher at prestigious Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, encouraged his interest in the arts. At ages 15 – 17 he spent his summers as an apprentice and journeyman in a summer stock theater company, working from 9:00 in the morning until 11:00 at night, six days a week… having the time of his life.
At age 17 he “ran away” with the circus (actually he had his mom’s blessing), performing as Jugglo the Clown. During that time, to earn his final credit for high school, he wrote his first play, The Princess and the Puppet… and he was hooked on writing.
Fascinated with sleight of hand, Rory began to learn the art of illusion from an old man in the circus. After graduation he moved to Florida to work at a new theme park: Walt Disney World. There he performed for four years, not only doing sleight of hand, but also portraying The Big Bad Wolf, Briar Bear, Baloo, Tigger, and Dumbo up on the high wire – a terrifying experience as he is afraid of heights.
Rory left Florida to pursue an acting career in Hollywood, remaining there 13 years, studying with the finest coaches in the business. He has performed on television, in films, on stages across the nation, including a long run as Buzz Maxwell in the hit comedy Triple Espresso. Considered one of the top comedy magic acts in the world today, Rory and his wife, Cat, have traveled the seven seas many times over, entertaining passengers on luxury cruise ships for over thirty years.
Rory has written and directed numerous theatrical productions, including a wide variety of corporate shows, and productions for Rocky Point Amusement Park, Marine World Africa U.S.A., and the eight-million dollar Maverick Illusion Show at Warner Brothers Movie World in Germany.
As a writer, Rory has had several films produced, including the children’s action film, The Secret Agent Club, the martial-arts superhero movie, Prey of the Jaguar, and others. He is slated to direct the sci-fi film Area 52, from his own script, later this year in Hollywood. He has also written stage productions for young folks, including lessons on peer pressure and environmental care: Them! and 22/22 Hindsight. In 2008 his full Broadway-style Christmas musical Nick Saint opened in Las Vegas. Directed and designed by Rory, the show garnering standing ovations at every performance.
As a Contributing Editor for MAGIC magazine, the world’s leading publication for the illusionary arts, Rory has had over 75 magazine articles published, including 16 cover stories.
Upon moving to Las Vegas to star in the lavish production show, Cabaret Circus, he discovered a newly formed church, Canyon Ridge. The first day he attended, he saw something he’d never seen before: theatrical drama used as a medium to teach the gospel message. He immediately searched out the person in charge of the drama ministry and offered his writing services for an upcoming series.
Sixteen years later, Rory has written, directed, and often acted in over 200 church dramas, first as a volunteer, then on staff as the Creative Arts Director.
“I consider it my job to reach the person that walks into our church who has little or no relationship with God. They have been drawn through our doors for a reason: they are feeling lost, disassociated, and are searching for something to fill empty areas of their life. They may not know why they are in a church, but God does: to form a relationship with Him. I believe the best way to initially reach these seekers is to present Biblical truths in a way that is both relevant and relatable. I want to touch their hearts, there and then, and compel them to return again and again because they enjoyed church. I want them to leave with a new understanding and a change in their outlook. I truly believe one of the best ways to do this is through theater.”
A leading expert in the field of teaching scripture through drama, Rory often teaches drama seminars at churches and gatherings such as Saddleback’s Worship Conference, and the Fellowship of Christian Magicians international convention.
Wanting to become a better leader, Rory earned a degree in Ministry Leadership from Rockbridge Seminary and became a full pastor.
A shepherd at heart, Rory joined his church’s Care Ministry team, becoming a leader of Celebrate Recovery, a teaching pastor, and the leader of the weekend services prayer team. Of course he continues on with his role of Creative Arts Director, as well, engaging people in scriptural truth in his unique way. In his 16 years there, Canyon Ridge has expanded from a few hundred people to a mega-church congregation of around 6500… and is still rapidly growing. Some of that success may certainly be attributed to the church’s very popular theater ministry.
Rory has combined his extensive experience in theater and his degree in Ministry Leadership to create Dramatic Results — A Guide to Changing Lives Through Drama Ministry, and Direct Like Jesus.