Jeff's first job, after years of serious childhood play with marionettes and puppets, was in a professional circus. Great America's Centennial Circus (1976) turned Circus Fantastic in 1977 & 78. There he went from usher to feature clown to ringmaster picking up juggling, unicycle and other skills along the way. The final year Circus Fantastic was featured on "Captain Kangaroo's Show, and Jeff did a clown performance with Mr. Green Jeans. Then he graduated from Northwestern University after 4 years of training in the Theatre, having never touched a mask. "We learned about them in Theatre History, but...." Upon graduation though his interest in mask was re-inaugurated by the need for masks in actual theatrical productions. "If we needed to be old, or monstrous or more than one character, masks were the obvious answer. And the audience was entranced by the masks...."
(1981-82) He did an Internship with Blackbird Theatre in Baltimore. A Bread and Puppet Theatre off shoot run by artist Barry Sullivan.
Soon he was traveling the country with Commedia Dell Arte companies of his own creation, "The Rainbow Guild," "The Basic Fools,"" The Bedlum Beggars,"" The Primordial Tyme Players," "Sturdy Beggars," and a group from the Dell Arte School "The Victims of Circus Dance."
Along the way he wintered in New Orleans partnered with the Reverend Mike Stark, Chris Chapman and Barbara Geary to open the first artists' collective Mask Shop in New Orleans. That was 1982, and "Little Shop of Fantasy" as it came to be known sold Jeff's masks until 2005. "My first Mardi Gras was like roller blinds flapping up in my mind. Here was the healthy social celebration of the unity of mankind that I had always been looking for. My genes lit up and I became a mask maker!"
Jeff has gone on to be known around the world for the quality and comfort that his professional tools of theatrical transformation offer maskers of every sort, from Opera, Theatre, Dance, Magic, Music, and serious fun makers to collectors. In 2016 his first masks on Broadway appeared in Lincoln Center's "Falsettos."
His clown noses in neoprene and leather are the official hand made red noses of Patch Adams M.D.'s Gesundheit Institute and have traveled the world bring people together through FUN!
And you too can support this loony career by acquiring a mask of your own, or taking classes from the Mad Master. Very few mask makers teach and none as free of nonsense and dogma as silly/serious Jeff Semmerling.
NBC Productions, Chicago's Goodman Theatre, Famous Door Theatre, Lifeline Theatre (among other theatre companies across the USA), Disney/MGM Studios Theme Park, Mill City Opera, The Florida Grande Oprea, Ballet Arizona, The Alley Theatre, Radio City Music Hall, Chicago Opera Theare, Joel Hall Dancers (Y-2-Day Masked Table Dance), Musicians including; Dr. John and Rita Colridge, Magicians, Jugglers, and Dancers