Alumn Jasmine Roth ‘14 returned to Union on Sept. 11, 2015 to perform for the campus community. Roth visited campus with Momentum Theatre Troupe. The touring theatrical company performed a mashup of Alfred Jarry’s “Ubu Roi” and William Shakespeare’s “Henry V” in Jackson’s Garden. Roth was both an actor and a director for this production. This was Roth’s second summer working with Momentum Theatre Troupe. She has served as stage manager, actor and director. In her time at Union, Roth performed in “Orestes,” “Gorey Stories,” multiple Winter Dance Concerts and various other productions. Additionally, she co-wrote a play for her senior thesis for the Department of Theatre, titled “Concubine,” with fellow student Robyn Belt ‘14.
Avery Novitch: What has it been like to pursue a career in theater after Union?
Jasmine Roth: Actually, three days after graduation I went up to Cornish, New Hampshire, where the company is based and I started stage managing for them. It was a unique situation because I had hopped into its callback at the last second so they didn’t have a role for me, but they said, “If you stage manage for us this year, then we’ll offer you a position as an actor the following year.” So, I did that. I don’t like stage managing at all, but it was definitely worth it and it was a really great company to get involved with. I was like, “Well I love this company so just to work with them is really awesome.” So then, after that towards the end of the summer, they said, “Would you be interested in directing a show next summer as well as acting?” So then I jumped on board this year as both an actor and director. But that was just a summer position, so I went home, lived with my parents for a few months, worked in the box office for a theater, which was great because I got to see shows all the time, and just being able to stay active that way was good too. Then I started directing a show with high schoolers. I directed “The Diary of Anne Frank”, which was super wonderful. I was very much like, “I don’t want to teach,” but after directing students, “I don’t know!” It kind of changed my life plans a little bit (…) That was a really good experience for me. And then I moved down to Arizona, and I’ve been there for the past couple of months. I was in two shows while I was down there; one was a dance performance and the other was with a local playwright, who was directing and producing his work. Then I came back to Momentum for this summer, to direct “Henry V” and play one of the leads in “President Ubu.” So that’s been my crazy year.
AN: What experiences at Union, classes or shows, stick out as influential since you have been pursuing theater?
JR: I think being super well-rounded in everything that I did at Union. After three weeks of stage managing with Momentum, I was like, “Thank God for my Union education.” Honestly. We are (…) pushed to be so well-rounded especially in the Theatre Department, but across campus in general. We have to do technical theater, we have to perform, we have to study theater from a scholarly point of view, so that we come to this place where you can kind of do anything, because you’ve done everything, in some way. And then you come out and you know what you love but you are also able to do other things. I think that’s a big (reason) why Momentum Theatre asked me back for a second year and offered me a role as a director as well as an actor—because I showed them that no matter what they threw my way, I could do it.
AN: So that gives you kind of an edge?
JR: Yeah it gives you an edge and all of a sudden, you’re not just an actor. You’re an actor who can also build a set. If I wasn’t willing to take that stage managing position, and I wouldn’t have if I had never had to stage manage at Union, but we have to, so I had that experience from being at Union. I was able to take that job, but if I hadn’t, they would have forgotten about me. There are so many actors that come through and being able to say, “I can do this, or I can do this other thing that you need right now,” it shows them that you care and not just about putting yourself on stage, but about the well being of a company as a whole, and that you’re a well rounded person.
Professor Patricia Wareh: So 2014 ended with you putting on a play that you had co-written, and I’m curious about what you’re doing with writing or the future of that play. You haven’t mentioned your writing yet and you’re very well-rounded.
JR: Well, okay, I haven’t been writing as much as I hoped. It’s harder to write in the real world than it is as school. So I haven’t done as much writing as I would have liked to (…) I really want to see if I can put up that play again and go further with it. Robyn and I submitted it to a couple of playwriting competitions which are very competitive, so we haven’t heard anything back from any of those, but we’re planning to keep going forward with that, but I wanted some space from it first. I think with art, art takes time and taking some time to not think about a project is better than thinking about a project all the time, so I kind of put that on the back burner for now. Robyn and I have been talking about, at some point in the near future, seeing if we can find an avenue for putting it back on its feet. I’ve also been trying to write more plays, which I have an ongoing five pages of ten different plays at this moment, but it’s hard to find time to write when you also have to work to make money. And writing doesn’t pay in the moment but one of my goals this fall is to find more time to write. It’s not impossible, I think it’s just about finding the way to balance it. Like I tried to save money this summer while I was working with Momentum so that in the fall I can have a little wiggle room and spend some time writing without being stressed about it. So I think careful planning is important in that regard.
AN: Coming back to your senior thesis, did you find yourself wanting to make changes to it now that you’ve worked full time with a theater company as a professional?
JR: Yes I’ve definitely found myself thinking about my thesis. I’ve definitely found myself wanting to make changes but it isn’t so much from working with a theater company but more so just in time looking back at things. When you’re caught up in writing or any sort of artistic thing, you get so focused on creating it that you only see one possible solution to things. When you have space you can say, “Oh I could have done it this way or I could have done it that way.” I think more so than changing that specific project I’ve thought of new ways I want to experiment with similar ideas or similar themes but going in a different direction with them in future writing.