Onstage / Ten Questions for Josie DiVincenzo
The award-winning performer takes on a new solo show at Jewish Rep
February 6–March 1
What I Thought I Knew
Jewish Reportory Theatre
What’s your relationship to What I Thought I Knew?
I had never heard of it; however, I held the experience of another one-woman show I did in 2014 at the Jewish Repertory Theatre, DAI (Enough!) in such a special place in my heart, I was hesitant. DAI was an intense and rewarding six-month experience both in research and performance; I felt it was the kind of thing to only do once in one’s career. I asked to read it, feeling I was probably going to pass, but in the first few pages I found myself already in her shoes, seeing the events, hearing the voices of those she encountered, feeling her moment to moment.
What’s the best acting advice you were ever given?
“You are enough.” It may sound simple; it was given to me years ago by the great master teacher, Larry Moss, and the penny finally dropped. We have plenty inside us to meld truth and imagination to bring authentic moments to a character’s life. If we push it or try to act an idea instead of having faith in our own experiences and imagination, we push the audience away. If we trust and have fun with our instincts, they lean in.
What’s your best “the show went on” moment?
In LA during Eclipsed, a play about the Magdalene Laundries, which were prisons, an actress was folding a towel when a big California roach fell at her feet. She started screaming, and the other actresses improvised that I needed to kill it because, being the alpha character who beats up people and escapes, I had to. It was one of those times I realized my character was braver than I, and it would be nice if I could borrow that bravery in my daily life. P.S. the audience thought the roach was part of the scene!
What’s the role that got away?
A national tour of Shear Madness, years ago. It was between me and the girl who got it. That would’ve been the beginning of professional stage work. I found out on a Friday, and immediately burst into tears, even surprising myself, yelling, “I have to go back to my desk job on Monday!” along with going back to the audition grind. Yet, what followed was a pretty darn good journey, so there you have it.
What line from a former play have you never forgotten and why?
Kate Keller from All My Sons: “Don’t, dear. Don’t take it on yourself. Forget now. Live.” At first it struck me as such destructive and ultimately deadly denial she used for survival, yet it was also the attempt to give her son permission to release an extremely heavy burden. Really intense, right? When ruminating about a petty annoyance, or if I find myself dwelling on the unkind behavior of someone, I’ll whisper it to myself in my best Katherine Hepburn mid-Atlantic vibrato that makes me chuckle because of the overkill. But it works!
What “against type” role are you dying to play?
Richard III. I’ve already worked on and performed two of his monologues for different things. Entering his emotional/psychological world vis-a-vis his physical being and vice versa would be my actor’s sandbox.
What’s your classic actor nightmare dream?
Recently, I had one completely different than my usual. My scene was next, and I still had to do my hair, which was to be some elaborate medieval design, but I was too short for the mirrors. All I could see was the bun at the top of my head. I’m still laughing about it. Meanwhile, my usual is I’m in the wings, my cue is coming, I have no idea where we are or what my lines are. The stage manager, always a female, is there even though she should be in the booth, frantically looking through the script which is like six inches thick with very small font. She doesn’t know where we are either! Panic! Of course, I wake up without ever knowing what happens!
What audition would you love to do over?
It was for Southcoast Rep in California and serves as a reminder to do the work rather than worry what the casting director is thinking. Nerves got to me, I felt disconnected, and I was correcting myself as I was speaking, trying desperately to impress, rather than experiencing the moment of the character. I walked out knowing I failed the room and my own sense of artistry.
What’s the best thing you’ve seen recently and why?
There’s so much great Buffalo theater happening, and I had to miss a lot the last part of last year. However, Fun Home at 710 Main last April was absolutely transformative. For out of town, Dance Nation in New York City last May was heartbreaking while really funny.
Plugs for the next season?
Not as of yet, but my work path is a bit like Buffalo weather: wait five minutes, it’ll change!