Art can be seen in many forms, but one of its most popular physical forms is the art of the stage. Theater can reflect the past, present, and future. It can move an audience in some of the most transforming ways. Theater, or musical theater is also a great escape, especially for the busy students at the University of Nevada, Reno. For this special edition of the Nevada Sagebrush, I interviewed Jasmine Johnson. Johnson is a junior at UNR and is majoring in Musical Theater. As a student of The School of the Arts, Johnson hopes this year will still be exciting amid COVID-19 cancelling many fall performances.
Q: What initially drew you to musical theater?
A: As a freshman in high school, I did my first musical with the Sierra School of Performing Arts. We did “Fiddler on the Roof.” I was just a little village person but I loved it so much. However, I was 14 at the time and I was shy so I wasn’t quite ready to open up to the world of theater.
Throughout high school I started joining a bunch of bands, but when I was 17 I got into my first musical review (bits and pieces of different musicals). I got the chance to sing a bunch of fun songs from shows my high school wouldn’t produce. After that, I fell in love with the community.
Q: What are your favorite productions you’ve been apart of?
A: I did a musical review called “Get Bent,” and that specific production does a bunch of musicals with gender-bent twists. We were doing a spin-off called “Get Bent: Reflections” in which it all took place in a living room and everyone was singing a bunch of different songs.
It was only for one night, but it sold out at Reno Little Theater which was really cool.
Q: What’s the biggest role you’ve had?
A: My first lead was in “Antigone”. That was me going from small reviews to being Creon in “Antigone” who has the most lines. I was on stage for the majority of the time, so that was a huge jump. It was intimidating but really awesome. Overall, that role really helped me grow as an actor. This roll definitely brought me back to my love for Greek theater.
Q: What was the most challenging part of being Creon in “Antigone”?
A: I had never read “Antigone” before I got into the show. When I read it I noticed the ending was so dramatic and it was such a turning point for Creon. I was really worried that it was going to be disingenuous. He has his whole family die, and there’s so much external and internal conflict. I didn’t want to get to the end of the play and it not feel real and emotional.
Q: If there was one project you could work on right now, what would it be?
A: My favorite musical is “Waitress,” and I love it more then life. I feel super connected to it and it was one of my first Broadway shows that I saw when I went to New York. If there was some dream-opportunity that happened where I got to work on it in any fashion I would be beyond myself.
Q: Where do you want to take you musical theater degree?
A: This past year I found an interest in filmmaking, and writing songs for films. I met some guys from a class who started Motherbrain Studios. They needed a song writer for a musical. They originally hired me on to just write music for it, but then it turned out they needed someone to play one of the main characters to sing the songs. They asked me to do it, and so I went from being on the music team to being one of the characters singing my own songs.
I fell in love with movie making after that, so I really want to take my musical theater degree and translate it to film and see how my skills are portrayed in film.
Q: What are you looking forward to this 2020 fall semester in your program?
A: Our department will do “Spring Awakening” again, which got cancelled a couple weeks before it was due because of COVID-19. Thankfully, it’s going to get the run it deserved the first time around. I think they are casting the same people but if there were any openings in that, it would be a cool show to be apart of.
There is a play called “People’s, Places, and Things,” which is one of my favorite plays and it will be directed by one of my favorite professors. I love this play so much so it would be super awesome to be apart of that play. I really hope it happens.
Emilie Rodriguez can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @emilieemeree.