2015 Best Supporting Actress in a Play Nominee: J. Deschenes as Lady Bracknell in Theatre@First's "The Importance of Being Earnest"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interviews.

NOTE: If you are nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com.

Photo Credit: Ari Smith

Photo Credit: Ari Smith

J. Deschene gave a breathtaking turn as the iconic Lady Bracknell in a pared-down production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.  In addition to her command for the stage and our attention, J. also captivated our spirits as she imagined a world of heightened morality, strict decorum, and the restrictions such a world places on us as participants.  Her smart fluidity with the language and the period's customs stood out in an already strong ensemble of performers. 

In her Interview, J. discusses some of her idols, the perfection of Oscar Wilde's script, and some of her challenges as a performer.  Thank you, J., for leading the pack with our first 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview!

J., thank you so much for joining us for an ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview.  Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m an actress, singer, director and lifelong resident of the Greater Boston area.  I’m also very proud to be a transwoman.

Lady Bracknell is quite the iconic role for any performer.  Can you tell us about how you approached the role?  How did you prepare?  Were you inspired by any other performances?

I’m not sure what this says about me, but I actually found the role to be very intuitive.  Lady Bracknell absolutely demands respect, and kind of deserves it because she doesn’t let anything stand in her way.  With those two things in mind, and a healthy understanding of the Victorian era, the rest [of the role] kind of fell into place.

Do you have any acting or theatre idols?  Artistic mentors?

I look at someone like Vanessa Redgrave and my jaw just drops every time.  Her brand of fearlessness and dedication is awe-inspiring.  Also, she’s not really an actress, but I always like to say I want to be Sarah Brightman when I grow up.

J. Deschene as Lady Bracknell and Annie Hochheiser as Cecily Cardew in Theatre@First's The Importance of Being Earnest (Photo Credit: Katrina DeFrancesco)

J. Deschene as Lady Bracknell and Annie Hochheiser as Cecily Cardew in Theatre@First's The Importance of Being Earnest (Photo Credit: Katrina DeFrancesco)

Why do you think that people are drawn to Oscar Wilde and The Importance of Being Earnest?  What did you find compelling about your production?

I think people instantly recognize just how perfect the script is.  There’s not a single hole or loose end.  It’s probably the most perfect script I’ve ever worked with.  And I love that, in our production, the script was the star.  We didn’t have much in the way of a set to kind of distract the audience’s eye with pretty things.  We let the talking do the talking.

I love that idea: let the talking do the talking.  Speaking of the production, everyone always says, “it takes a village to make a show.”  Who have been some of your favorite co-stars and in what roles/productions?

Honestly, I have to give this one to my Earnest cast.  Never before had I worked with such a strong group of actors who were all just willing to play and explore and have fun endlessly.  Artistically speaking, it was a dream!

What have been some of your biggest challenges as a performer?  How have you grown?  What have you learned?

It’s hard for a trans performer to be taken seriously.  You walk into the audition room and there’s some immediate cognitive dissonance on the part of the director and the rest of the casting panel.  But what I’ve learned is that you just have to be confident in yourself and your identity, be who you are and show them the best of yourself.  That way, no matter what decision they make, you can rest assured that it’s not because you weren’t woman enough, or man enough.

If you could change one thing about the Greater Boston theatre scene, what would it be?

I’d really like for us to stop losing great companies and venues.  Also, more rehearsal spaces would be nice.

What is a secret (or not-so-secret) talent of yours?

I do this bizarre thing where I remember my lines by seeing them on the page in my head.  Does that count?

If you could turn back time, where would you go, and why?  What would you do there?  More importantly, what would you wear?

I would love to visit the Tudor era in England, but only if I could be a royal.  Imagine being in the majestic presence of Elizabeth I!  As for what I’d wear, it would have to be something fabulous!

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I have the distinct honor of directing Whole Tone Opera’s inaugural production of La Zombiata: An Opera Farce with Zombies!  It’s going to be a colorful, gory, undead love fest that opens in February at the Davis Square Theatre.  You can find out more at www.WholeToneOpera.com.

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

A friend of mine once said the most beautiful thing about theatre, and I think you all will agree: “There are plenty of things to love about theatre - the camaraderie, the spectacle, the never-ending barrage of backstage humor, the sheer dedication and skill necessary to pull it off well. But I think what makes it work, is that moment when a room full of friends and strangers - actors, tech, audience - wordlessly agrees to exit the world of our daily cares and enter a new one of our own making.”