Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Spotlight On...JD Cerna

Name:  JD Cerna

Hometown: Manhattan

Education: Catholic University of America and New York University

Favorite Credits: Found A Peanut (Scott, Greenwich Theatre Company)

Why theater?: Because if not theater, then boring office job.  Without theater, dysfunction and chaos left to be controlled by corporate America and commercial consumerism.  Without theater, no safe place to explore all that unsafe stuff, like who the hell are we?  And why are we here?  And why do I feel hate and why do I feel love and I’m gay but that’s okay.  When I was 12, I saw A Chorus Line and when Paul makes that speech at the end I was like, “Thank you God.  Thank you.  I am not alone.”  Theater helps remind us that we’re not alone, any of us, not really.  It tells us it’s okay to FEEL.  It’s okay to ask questions.  It’s okay to explode.

What inspired you to create Not as Cute as Picture?: I had performed this play I wrote called Flight of the Goddamned Butterfly that played at Rose’s Turn (RIP!) for seven months.  Backstage had raved about it, and a talented man named Michael Rupert came and fell in love with it. He asked me what else I had up my sleeve.  I showed him these letters I wrote while I was stuck on this horrible gambling barge performing Chorus Line medleys.  Michael read the letters and said “you have something here”.  While I was stuck on that miserable boat, I saw the picture I had submitted at my audition.  The “cast leader” wrote “not as cute as picture” on the back of my picture.  I was horrified.  Michael said, “That’s your title, you know.”  And so it was.  I explored that theme, that nothing is really like its picture.  It’s just a picture.  What TRUTH is behind that picture?  And it grew from there. 

What kind of theater speaks to you?: What or who inspires you as an artist?: Theater that isn’t afraid to speak its mind without regard for politics or “political correctness” or the like.  Theater that has a distinct voice, but doesn’t have to scream its voice to be heard.  I like theater that mirrors my life, and who doesn’t?  I like plays that “catch the conscious of the king”.  That’s what theater ought to do.  Hamlet realized that the ONLY way to find out if the king had killed his Dad was to do a play.  Because theater is magical that way, or it should be. It can cause our conscience to overtake our denial and our lies.  It’s revolutionary at times, and that’s why I love it. Carrie Fisher, because she refuses to take her despair seriously (her words).  She throws all her despair into her work, but then her work makes us laugh.  How brilliant is that.  Lanford Wilson, because he simply took for granted that straights and gays could co-exist in life... and that characters are not defined by sexuality but rather by their humanity.  Tennessee Williams, because he insisted on the poetry that life is, no matter how brutal life is.  What inspires me as an artist is seeing life AS art.  I am like Carrie Fisher.  I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to BE art. 

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
Oh wow.  This is a fun interview.  Well, Chrissie Hynde is not a theater person, but she is my poetry rock goddess, so I would love to work with her.  In any capacity.  I would love to work with John Cameron Mitchell.  I hung out with him at this cool thing called “Rock and Roll Fag Bar” which is where he was developing Hedwig.  I love John’s sensitivity and his fearlessness in showing vulnerability.  And my fantasy?  Is to do a play with Sigourney Weaver.  I mean, come on, how cool would that be?  I fell in love with her when I saw “Aliens” in Times Square twice in a row.  Just some meaty scenes with Sigourney Weaver.  She screams at me and I scream back, that kind of thing.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: When Hair was brought back to Broadway, I was screaming to everyone I knew: Go see this NOW.  PLEASE. 

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Oh wow.  Can I say Sigourney Weaver?  Just kidding.  I think Stephen Dorff would do a good job.  Geez, I hope I spelled his name right.  That would be awful, me spelling his name wrong.  But he is just so underused and so brilliant and I would be very happy to have him play me.  The movie would be called “Hits, Misses and Fits: The Story of JD Cerna”.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Watching those old TOHO monster movies, IE Godzilla, Mothra, etc.  They bring me back to that safe childhood place.  And they’re so much fun to watch, and they had those great orchestral scores! 

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?:
Ranting and raving in Union Square Park, with a tin can at my feet. 

What’s up next?: I have another solo show called Problem Cat.  It’s all about one day in 2001 when I witnessed a neighbor leap to her death.  Tried to save her, failed, ended up with PTSD.  Went and got a cat to help soothe the nerves, but the cat was illegal in  my building, and thus began a Herculean effort to keep the cat despite lawyers and board meetings and screaming neighbors.  It’s actually pretty funny.  Did a showcase of it back in 2009 and the audience loved it.  Oh, the cat was also obese and couldn’t clean herself.  I think you can see the potential there.