Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Education: Carnegie Mellon University 2013 with a focus in Acting/Musical Theater
Select Credits: The Producers, White Christmas (Fulton Theater), Cats, Spamalot, Phantom, 42nd Street (Pittsburgh CLO), Pop! Who Shot Andy Warhol? (City Theater), Angels in America Part 1, Spring Awakening, Master Harold…and the boys (Carnegie Mellon University)
Why theater?: Because I ran AWAY from the soccer ball. And because it was where I always belonged.
Who do you play in TO DANCE?: Valery Panov
Tell us about TO DANCE: I grew up with two older brothers, but quickly found myself wanting to sing and dance and act, which neither of them did. So, my parents knew they had no choice but to drag me to dance class and choir practice every day. When I was 15, I attended the Alvin Ailey summer dance intensive on a full scholarship, which was the year I decided I didn’t want to solely pursue dance. I went on to attend Baltimore School for the Arts with a focus in Theater, and after going to the Carnegie Mellon pre-college program, I was accepted that summer, spending my entire senior year of high school twiddling my thumbs. Carnegie Mellon was a very trying but amazing experience, and I came out with such an appreciation for theater, for words, for expression, and for my true voice. It has been two years now in the Big Apple and as different as it was then I imagined when I was a kid, I would not trade where I am right now for the world, and am excited to keep learning and growing!
What is it like being a part of TO DANCE?: I could not be more thrilled to be a part of this project. The entire team is beyond amazing and supportive, and I really connect with Valery. First things first, both of my best friends (Katya and Katia) are Russian, and I have learned a lot about Russian culture by default, so I am grateful to understand a bit more about Russia through them. Also, I understand Valery’s unrelenting desire to perform, to create, and to live with such passion. I often feel that I forget that part of myself, something that has driven me since I was born. As tough as it is to experience someone’s spirit slowly deteriorate, by honoring Valery and what he stood for, it reminds me to always live with passion and be grateful to live in an age and a place where I can do that freely.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I am a founding member of In the Basement Theater Company, which reinvents mythical tales using dance, story-telling, masks, and music. I have always been passionate about how to tell a story beyond words but through movement and relationships. My favorite art is the kind that allows me to engage on a level beyond my ego and find complexity in the most simple things. Pina Bausch truly altered the way I saw expression and how I wanted to express myself. Mia Michaels opened my eyes to technically beautiful but ultimately visceral and musical movement. Jason Robert Brown and Stephen Sondheim jointly inspired me to not just sing a song but to live it, especially appreciating that every note, every rest, and every chord has an intention.
Any roles you’re dying to play?: I’ve secretly been dying to play Jamie in The Last Five Years. Otherwise, as lame as this sounds, I’d love to originate roles from new shows, which is what I am doing right now!
What’s your favorite showtune?: "Never Walk Alone" from Carousel.
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: My friends. Or Channing Tatum.
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Zac Efron via High School Musical and it would be called “Juice Cadet”!
If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: My dear friend and former roommate Emily Koch in her first performance as Elphaba on Broadway. I’m crying already.
What show have you recommended to your friends?: To Dance!
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Nutella.
What’s up next?: Back to that New York City Grind. I do crochet infinity scarves so if all else fails…crocheting. @infinitewarmthbyjcb
For more on Jesse, visit jessecarrey.com