If you've been to a local play or musical in the last handful of years, chances are you've seen Jace Jamison (pictured below). From Around the World in 80 Days and The Drowsy Chaperone at Parkland College to She Kills Monsters to Sleep Deprivation Chamber at the Station Theatre, Jamison has kept quite busy playing a variety of characters. His latest role is off the stage, as he directs Twin City Theatre Company's production of Samuel Beckett's existential classic Waiting for Godot.
Since its 1953 debut, Waiting for Godot has challenged audiences around the world with its blend of poetic language and desolation. Brooks Atkinson, of the New York Times, called it "a mystery wrapped in an enigma," while Philip Hope-Wallace of The Guardian proclaimed it "a witty and poetic conundrum."
Here's a plot synopsis to get you started.
[Pause for you to click over and read.]
I had a chat with Jamison about this project and about his body of work in the C-U theatre scene thus far.
Smile Politely: What is your first memory of Waiting for Godot? Or, how did you first encounter it?
Jace Jamison: While attending Parkland College in 2015, I took a theatre appreciation class and we watched a BBC production of Waiting for Godot. I was absolutely enthralled. I had never seen anything like it, and haven’t to this day. I’ve been reading this show for two years now, and there’s always a different way of interpreting it, or parts of it. It’s much more like a song than a film, in that it has much more meaning than story. Which I find interesting, given the amount of silence that is incorporated into it. It’s something you should experience, rather than just watch. The definitions aren’t scripted, that’s for you to discover yourself. That’s what has kept me intrigued by the Godot.
SP: What is your background with directing? What made this a show for you to direct (as opposed to, say, act in)?
Jamison: My first “real” directing opportunity was also at Parkland. I directed a show as part of the 24th and 25th Annual Theatre Student Productions. Superhero Support Group was a self-explanatory 25-minute two-act comedy; and On the Corner of Bohdisattva and Shangri-La—we called it “The God Show”—was about God (played by Jasmine Elam) and Zeus (me) at a bar. I also Assistant Directed Unity High School’s Legally Blond.
As an actor, this dialogue scares me. As an observer or director, the dialogue enlightens me. Lucky’s speech is a piece I admire, and would love to do on stage if ever I’m cast in this production. He’s the character I would definitely go for! But, at this point in time, I couldn’t trust myself with executing Pozzo’s poetry or delivering the beautiful quips of Vladimir and Estragon. I may keep busy, but I’m not yet “seasoned.”
SP: I think lots of people have heard of Waiting for Godot, but maybe they don’t have a sense of it. Could you summarize it in your own words? (Photo by Dylan Tiger)
Jamison: Two men are waiting for the arrival of Godot. Why they are waiting, they don’t know. The amount of time that passes and the location are also a mystery. These men are visited by strange travelers, including a lone child, which disrupts their reality as much as ours. It’s hard to summarize, because the meaning is seen differently by all. To me, it’s about how we perceive time. Most people couldn’t tell you what they did last Thursday, as opposed to last Monday, because, when you have a daily schedule, everything just blends together and flows right along. Act I and Act II are two different days, but there’s no telling how far in time they are separated from each other.
SP: You’ve done a couple of shows now with Twin City Squared. What do you like about working with them? Where do you think they fit in the C-U theatre scene?
Jamison: They are the place to go if you want to do a show that’s brand new. American Idiot and Peter and the Starcatcher were both fairly new scripts at the time we did them. Godot is one that doesn’t quite match that criteria, but with a fresh company comes fresh ideas about how shows are to be put on. We don’t want to keep playing the same show everyone has seen before on repeat. There’s no moving forward with that. On the grand scale, we aim to expose the unknowns—and the brand new — with the odd familiar show.
SP: In a relatively short amount of time, you’ve amassed quite a list of credits. What keeps you going? What is it about theatre that drives you? Any favorite roles or shows so far?
Jamison: I am head over heels in love with the concept of stepping away from being yourself and being someone else completely. No matter how long that time is, it’s very special because you get to see how much of the real you is living within the character you’re inhabiting—or how little. Adding an accent is one thing, but then you go deeper and add gestures that you don’t usually make, you can change up your speech patterns, the way you walk…. The list goes on. There are two roles I have a hard time picking a favorite from. I will never forget portraying Lloyd Dallas in Noises Off. I was pretty annoyed at circumstances in my life at the time, and Lloyd was the perfect vessel to let those emotions come through and add to the character’s believable (humorous) stress. However, after the absolute blast that was The Drowsy Chaperone, it’s hard to not say, “I. Am Aldolpho!!”
SP: Back to Godot. Is there a character in the play with whom you particularly identify? (Photo by Dylan Tiger)
Jamison: Oooh. Tough one. I don’t think there is, and that was one of the reasons I wanted to direct it. Let me rephrase: I don’t identify with just one, because these characters represent parts of all of us. They represent how we all get on in life, for better or worse. Time passes just the same for them as for us, and we are all the same species. What we choose to do with that information is where we differ. Whether we get held up on an unanswerable question and go nowhere, we suppose we know the answer and move on, or have all the answers and show up when and where we please, we will all eventually end up the same place. That’s how life goes. That’s how Godot goes.
SP: Last but not least: What would you like to say to the theatregoer who might be thinking, “Theatre is all well and good, but I don’t know if I want to go out?”
Jamison: Theatre is going nowhere anytime soon, whether you want to come out or not. So just come out! We put so much of ourselves into it for the community—not just friends and family. A show isn’t a script. That’s just a book. A show is people in the seats, watching that book come to life. We want to show you what we make. We need your reactions to know how to build on what we make, and we need your favor to continue to want to build on what we make. It’s more fun for us if we get to do it for you!
Waiting for Godot features Nick Strole, Kevin Wickart, John Tilford, Jon Faw, and Dema Evans. The show runs October 5–8 and 12–15 at Sodo Theatre. Ticket prices and showtimes can be found on the Twin City Squared website.
Photos courtesy of Jace Jamison.