Featured THE TERROR FANTASTIC artist: Jaya Robillard, Stage Manager

DSC_01471. Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of experience are you bringing to this production? Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?
I started stage managing in high school, sort of by accident. I signed up to be the assistant stage manager for my school’s musical because a few of my friends were cast, and I ended up falling in love with it. I continued stage managing through college and moved to the twin cities after graduation. This is my first 20% Theatre experience, and I’ve really enjoyed both the show itself and the rehearsal process.

2. What are your role(s) with the production?
I am the stage manager, a role for which I still haven’t come up with a good, concise explanation. Basically, my job is to make sure that everything that’s supposed to happen during the performance actually happens. During rehearsals, I write down blocking and communicate with designers about things we’ll need onstage. For performances, Scout (the ASM) and I make sure everything is set before the show, and I call each light, sound, and projection cue during the run.
3. Why do you feel it is important to share this story/the story(ies) of this production with the community?
Mental health problems are still really stigmatized, particularly when they don’t manifest in neat and manageable ways. Iz is a very sympathetic character despite her flaws and bad decisions, and I think it’s so valuable for people who don’t struggle with anxiety to see things from her point of view, and to understand why she behaves the way she does. For those of us who do deal with anxiety on a regular basis, it feels good to see the things we go through–particularly when those aren’t things we always feel like we can talk about openly–represented with both truth and empathy onstage. I know that working on this production has given me the opportunity to think about the way I manage my anxiety, and has served as a reminder to make kind and healthy decisions for myself. I hope it does the same for many of our audience members.

4. What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create?
I think that giving marginalized voices a platform is incredibly important for combating prejudice and inequality due to race, gender, queer identity, or anything else. If you never get a chance to share your experience, how can you hope for people to understand it? Some of my favorite shows I’ve been able to work on have been shows that focus on voices we rarely get to hear. There’s an incredible energy in the room when a group of artists who don’t usually get to tell their own stories have the opportunity to do so. Most of the productions like this that I’ve worked on have been about racial minorities, and it’s been a great experience to get to do something similar with queer identity with The Terror Fantastic.
5. What other artists or performances have inspired you over the years?
I am a big fan of performances that take advantage of live theatre as a medium. The types of stories we can tell onstage are often similar to the ones we tell in film and television, and while they are similar mediums in many ways, I particularly love seeing a stage performance that really wouldn’t work on screen. Examining what we do and don’t accept in different mediums helps us examine the full range of what we can do with our performances. I think our willingness to suspend disbelief for live theatre opens up the possibility for unique kinds of storytelling, from non-literal movement to having multiple scenes happening at the same time. I’m fascinated by performances that push the boundaries of what we can do onstage, and of what “a play” even is.
6. Are you working on any other projects or are there others you hope to work on?
My next show is Cardboard Piano at Park Square Theatre, for which I’ll be ASMing. I’ve also recently joined Sandbox Theatre and am excited for future projects with them.

7. When you’re not rehearsing for The Terror Fantastic, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?
I’ve been trying to expand my visual art skills, mostly drawing. I’m also a big fan of puzzles (jigsaw, logic, whatever), and my roommates and I try to have movie nights when we can find an evening when we’re all home together.

Come experience Jaya’s stage manager awesomeness in The Terror Fantastic!