Leah's Train: Actor Jessica Smith

Travel through three generations of adventure, grief and love. Co-presented by 20% Theatre Company Twin Cities and the Sabes Jewish Community Center, we are pleased to bring you Leah’s Train by Karen Hartman March 7-22, 2015 (all performances at theJCC).  Before and during the run of this show, we will be giving you a chance to learn a little bit more about the artists involved in our production. In this first interview, meet actor Jessica Smith.

Actor: Jessica Smith
Actor: Jessica Smith

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? How/when/why did you get into theatre?

I was a late bloomer when it came to theatre.  Before I got the theatre bug, I had been doing competitive martial arts for years before taking time away to focus on college.  My first play was A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the part of Helena when I was 18.  After that, it was all about theatre and the arts and creating.  I fell in love with the world that allows people to play the world’s best game of pretend with people who are so passionate, so out there, and are willing to play right along with you.

Is this your first show with 20% Theatre Twin Cities? Tell us briefly about your past experience with the company?

This is my first show performing for 20% Theatre, though I had the privilege to be the company’s fight coordinator for their production of If We Were Birds earlier this year.

Tell us what originally drew you to the Leah’s Train script. What interested you in auditioning for this show?

When I read this script, I fell in love.  It was so different than what I expected.  There’s the sense of mysticism and connection that I loved about it right away as well as these awesome raw characters.  It was actually the opportunity to work for this company again that convinced me to audition for this play and I’m so glad I did!  Once I had read the script, I was that much more excited about the possibility of being involved.

Tell us a little bit about the character you play?

Ruth desperately wants to matter.  She has this incredible ancestor (her grandmother) who has been put on a pedestal by her mother and herself her entire life.  She feels as though she is never going to measure up to her grandmother’s achievements and so she has tried to disconnect from her family while trying to matter in her career field.  She relies on her boyfriend and her patients to have a place in the world, but things are about to happen that will force her to view family in a different perspective.

This experience has probably been quite different than doing fight choreography for If We Were Birds? How has it been different to be on the other side, now acting for 20%?

It’s been interesting-both absolutely wonderful and a little scary.  When I’m fight directing, I’m in charge of what’s going on and I’m the one providing direction.  It’s a switch to be in the position of the one being directed.  At the same time, though, the process has reminded me why I love acting so much.  The letting go, the moment you decide to throw everything into a scene and just let loose.  It’s magical.

What else do you do in the world, outside of theatre and/or working on this production?

For the bills, I bartend, I’ve got a great group of regulars where I work, and hearing their stories and discussing life with them is always interesting, to say the least.  Otherwise, for free time, I love dancing, being in the outdoors when it’s warm never gets old for me, and if there’s a place with live music-I’m there, and if there’s good beer there, bonus points!

What is your favorite type of transportation?

I miss riding around on the moped I used to own.  So much fun!