Friday, August 7, 2015

Spotlight On...Jasmine Pittenger

Name: Jasmine Pittenger

Hometown: I grew up in a hippy barn on the Oregon Coast -- a barn that my family and I built with our own hands.

Education: 2 Masters degrees: Journalism and International Management; Meisner Intensive Acting Training, 2014 (180 hours)

Select Credits: A writer, performer and UN spokeswoman for children in emergencies, I've lived for 15 years on nearly every continent -- including some of the world's most heated war zones. Whether interviewing women refugees in Darfur's desert camps or dodging Taliban bombs, my abundant ass is my constant traveling companion. Oh, you mean theater credits! When not dodging Taliban, I've written and/or acted in: My Ass (In The World): A True Story Of Love, War, Taliban... And Dirty Lambada-Dancing. Writer and Solo Show Actor. 2014-15; The Fish Pirate's Daughter, Alaska's longest-running (48 years) locally-written play. Title Role. 1994; I won't tell you the sordid details of playing the Princess in my very small Oregon high school's production of The Frog Prince... or of my crowd-stopping solo as the Munchkin Coroner in the Wizard of Oz. Those are stories for... another solo show.

Why theater?: I was spurred to write and perform my own solo show after sitting with bated breath in the audience of a crowded theater in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 2009. Eve Ensler had brought The Vagina Monologues to Islamabad -- while outside the theater Taliban were bombing western hotels and restaurants left and right. It was an act of courage on the part of Ensler and her cast of Pakistani women. The sense of theater's potential to change the world, that night, was palpable. So was the audience's collective sigh of relief when the show was over and the theater had not been bombed. After I left that Islamabad theater and could breathe again, I began working with Emmy Award-winning writer Matt Hoverman and director Mary Catherine Donnelly to develop my own solo show.

Who do you play in My Ass (In The World): A True Story Of Love, War, Taliban... And Dirty Lambada-Dancing?: I play myself: All the way from the 9-yr.-old who plotted her globetrotting future, with a National Geographic in one sticky hand and a Harlequin romance in the other...To the 37-yr.-old humanitarian aid worker facing the muzzle of an Afghan boy's gun.

Tell us about My Ass (In The World): A True Story Of Love, War, Taliban... And Dirty Lambada-Dancing: My Ass (In The World) starts off as a girl's cheeky quest for that one elusive place on earth where "Fat Ass" translates to "Perfect Peach." Five continents and two decades later, my escape from the Huge Family Butt turns into a much bigger quest – one that might just help change the world. Pakistan, 2009. A lover’s hand traces the naked curve of my bum. Outside the window, the CIA blindly seeks Bin Laden and Taliban blow up the UN. I am now a humanitarian, helping refugees flee violence all over the world. But no matter where I go (Darfur, Brazil, Pakistan); who I meet (refugees, Emergency Cowboys); or what I survive (bombs, bullets, hostage-takers), my abundant ass*ets are my constant travel companion. To one Emergency Cowboy, it’s a peach. To men on the streets of Senegal, it’s like sweet rice porridge. To the Afghan boy holding a gun to my head, it’s collateral damage. Like the refugee women I interview in desert camps, I'm running to escape the violence that scars women’s bodies the world over. But I'll never stop running until I can learn to embrace my butt in all its sacred glory.

What is it like being a part of My Ass (In The World)?: It's the most fun I've had since a zebra faced me off from the landing strip – just before my tiny plane touched down in the Masai Mara. The talks I've had with men and women alike after the show -- which speaks to anyone who believes they should be different to be loved, or to be okay in the world -- have been powerful and touching and beautiful and mind-blowing. They've inspired me to bring these messages to everyone I possibly can.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I'm inspired by the way Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues have changed the relationship many, many women all over the world have with their bodies. I think her play alone has taken us on an important path to end violence -- internal and external -- on our bodies. On top of that, Eve Ensler has used the huge popularity of The Vagina Monologues to spark a worldwide movement, V-Day, which focuses even more directly on ending violence. That's the kind of writer and performer I aspire to be: One who courageously takes on big issues to change the world, both through theater itself and through the attention it brings.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Lysistrata... Or a blonde Kim Kardashian in her 2048 retrospective biopic: "How MY Ass (Really Did) Change the World."

What’s your favorite showtune?: "Shake Your Groove Thing," from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I'd love to be directed by Meryl Streep while playing... Meryl Streep. (Are you listening, Meryl? Maybe if I just say your name again...).

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I would be played by Beyonce's big-butted love child with Reese Witherspoon.The movie about my life would be called... wait for it!.... “My Ass (In The World): A True Story Of Love, War, Taliban... And Dirty Lambada-Dancing”.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:  Nia Vardalos' one-woman show. I'd be sitting in the audience behind Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, at the exact moment when Tom locked eyes with Rita and whispered,  "Honey, that's exactly what your Greek aunt said: 'This is not meat. It's lamb!" (This, before the world had ever heard of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding").

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Our Lady of Kibeho.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I hold an unconfirmed world record for submitting to the broadest spectrum of the globe's wackiest massages... From being beaten with oak leaves in a Russian platza, to the contortions of Thai massage, to my favorite: Indian Ayurvedic Shirodhara. Some say Shirodhara sounds like a torture technique. I say it's the most relaxed you can possibly be -- while lying on a wooden table and having warm oil poured slowly over your forehead.

What’s up next?: My Ass (In The World) is also a book! A memoir, to be exact. As soon as the show's run at FringeNYC is over, I will be making a last push to finish "My Ass (In The World: The Book."

For more on My Ass (In the World), visit