Kevin Ray Johnson
I would like you to meet the oh so talented, Jennifer Apple. Jennifer will be starring as Anna in the upcoming National Tour of The Band's Visit! I first met Jennifer several years back when we were performing in a reading together of a new musical. Since then Ms. Apple has left her mark performing for well-respected theatres such as The American Conservatory Theatre (A.C.T.), Goodspeed Musicals, Cape Fear Regional Theatre, Chautauqua Theatre Company, and The New York Musical Festival, just to name a few. She is a performer that I have genuinely admired for a long time, and anyone who knows Jennifer Apple only speaks volumes or her talent, work ethic, and dedication to this industry. It was such an honor to have the chance to interview her!
1.) How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a performer?
I grew up singing and performing around my house as a child, so my parents put me in voice lessons and community theater when I was younger. I was instantly hooked, and the rest is history. I've been doing it in some capacity for as long as I can remember, really!
2.) Where did you study? Are there any mentors that truly helped make you the performer you are today?
I went to a liberal arts college for undergrad where I majored in Theater (Acting and Directing double concentration) with a double minor in Creative Writing and Philosophy -- all majors/minors that certainly exemplify that type of degree! After graduating and hopping around the regional theater scene, I felt I wanted a more immersive and extensive acting training, so I went to the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) for my M.F.A. in Acting. I was able to study with some brilliant artists who have definitely helped mold me into the type of performer, human, and artist I am now. Their specificity, care, depth, passion, skill… I am incredibly grateful for their support, love, and knowledge.
Nancy Benjamin for instilling boldness & honesty into my voice and use of language; Domenique Lozano for showing me vulnerability is strength and that I can confidently own my groundedness; Stephen Buescher for his unparalleled ability to unleash various characters within me, push me to the -nth degree physically, and hone my comedic timing; Jeff Crockett for giving me time and space to simply be, to discover what it means to live truthfully and in the present. Jeff was also a mentor for me on a solo-show I created while at A.C.T. that really solidified a friendship outside of an institutional framework, and I am endlessly grateful for that.
3.) Congratulations on The Band's Visit! What a beautiful show! As rehearsals begin for the National Tour, what can you say you are most excited for?
Thank you! There are so many gorgeous things about the piece itself that I am honored to bring to life with this wonderful company! Since The Band's Visit is perhaps not as "mainstream" as some other shows, I am excited to see how it will be received in various parts of the country that may not have been as exposed to the cultural elements that are integral to the story. The ability to share human connection & community while also seeing the country will be an adventure, for sure!
4.) Are there any shows (prior to The Band's Visit) that you have done in your career that will always be near and dear to your heart?
I really loved playing Caroline in Dominique Morisseau's Detroit '67 at Chautauqua Theater Company, directed by Steve Broadnax. Dominique writes such nuanced and specific characters with such clear perspectives and voices. The world she creates is so real and relevant to our culture today, so the opportunity to bring that particular story to life under Steve's brilliant direction was a gift. I also loved playing Shen Te/Shui Ta in The Good Woman of Setzuan, directed by Domenique Lozano, while at A.C.T. It is such an epic role with gender and focus shifting that allowed me to really stretch myself as an actor and storyteller.
5.) What advice would you give young performers who want a career in this business?
I am fairly certain this is something I will continue to cultivate for the rest of my life, but patience. Oh boy, so much patience. Your journey is not linear, and what you strive for will, most likely, not come to you how you expect, so the ability to remain open and flexible is crucial.
You are not going to be compatible with every project or person so instead of letting that defeat you, release the need to please everyone. Your like minded people will find you, and you'll hopefully get to create the work that will be more fulfilling anyway, so let this be an invitation to simply show up, work hard, do your best, and be as present as you can possibly be. Also, you are your own best advocate. Don't wait for other people to give you the job or offer you an opportunity -- no one will hustle more for you than you will yourself!
To learn more about Jennifer Apple, please make sure you visit her website at www.jenniferapple.net and to learn more about the upcoming National Tour of The Band's Visit – www.thebandsvisitmusical.com