Onstage / Ten Questions for Jenn Stafford
From COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN at New Phoenix Theatre)
Photo by Brenda Feldstein
November 22–December 21
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
New Phoenix Theatre, 95 Johnson park
What’s your relationship to this play?
This play deals with deep rooted secrets, lies, and shame that are handled well by some characters, and others not so much. My character seems miles away from me, but her journey teaches me so much, so it is a joy to go on it. Not to mention, I have always wanted to work with Lisa Ludwig. She is a comedic genius in this from the first reading.
What’s the best acting advice you were ever given?
Schooled in biology, I am always intimidated not having a theater degree. I did study at T. Schreiber School in New York with Betty Buckley, [who said]:”You have to be a keen observer of life. Acting is about witnessing and being fascinated by humanity.” I am always eager for advice. During The Father at Kavinoky, the wildly talented and lovely Aleks Malejs advised me to not bring my script backstage; do the work and then trust it. I would like to take a class from her.
What’s your best “the show went on” moment?
Oh, there are so many fun ones. I got a taste of improv when the middle school stepsister didn’t make her costume change and left me on stage alone just to Cinderella it up by myself. Or the time, forgetting a prop, my Seymour sang, “Here, take my shirt sleeve.” instead of, “here, take my Kleenex.” Holding down laughter singing a poignant “You opened up my eyes” while my eye was swollen to a slit from root canal. Doing Shakespeare in the Park was a bucket list thing for me, and I had this huge speech in Winter’s Tale. The night before opening, my then kindergarten son decided to climb a tree and had an epic femur break (in his defense, the branch broke; he is an excellent climber). Twenty-four hours later, he went into surgery, and his surgeon/hero Dr. Ferris generously let me set my eyes on him thirty minutes before he was cleared from post-op so I could rush to the opening night on the hill.
What’s the role that got away?
I had nine callbacks for the role of Maureen in Rent on Broadway. That and I am still waiting to hear on Annie.
What line from a former play have you never forgotten and why?
“Anything you do, let it come from you, then it will be new.” It’s a line Dot says to George in Sunday in the Park. She tries to convince him to continue to be creative when he doubts himself and I find that comforting to say to myself.
What “against type” role are you dying to play?
I have had a deep love from a young age for the show Sweeney Todd, but when confronted with which woman I would like to play, I realize I want to be Sweeney. I would selfishly love to do a concert of songs written for men.
What’s your classic actor nightmare dream?
Clearly, I should not eat so much before bed, because I have a very vibrant dream life. I love to overprepare and practice ad nauseum, so those unprepared dreams are visceral and horrifying. Then again, I would rather make a huge mistake than be painfully mediocre; that is the nightmare.
What audition would you love to do over?
All of them, please. I tend to call my mother on the way home from an audition, and she laughs at me every time. Apparently, I always think I totally blow the ones that I get. She thinks that if I were to say it went fine, it would be a terrible sign.
What’s the best thing you’ve seen recently and why?
I am currently taking care of both of my parents who are sadly dealing with very serious health issues, in chorus with juggling my three kiddos, so I don’t get out as much as I’d like. I do save every playbill, and a quick glance in my drawer reminds me of Disgraced at Road Less Traveled [season before last]. To have the opportunity to be exposed to such wonderfully rich and complicated themes expertly presented live is such a gift.
Plugs for upcoming work?
I am so excited, and happily terrified (see above), to debut at Road Less Traveled in Hand to God in March!