In preparation for the upcoming workshop and reading of NOMS DE GUERRE as part of Pasadena Playhouse's HotHouse series, I connected with our company about their careers in the theatre and the relevant themes of the play. HotHouse readings are by invitation only. Click here to learn more and please enjoy this wonderful interview with cast member Jacques C. Smith.
JACQUELINE LAWTON: To begin, why did you decide to get into theater? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
JACQUES C. SMITH: I began doing theater in high school as an extra-curricular activity. I enjoyed it immensely but never considered it as a career option at that time. While in college, I began to consider it as a profession. As a test for myself, one summer, I decided to audition for a production in my hometown of Chicago. I purposely chose a theater with which I was unfamiliar and where no one knew me in order to experience the craft without any prior relationships influencing me. This production of Cyrano de Bergerac solidified my love of acting and the art form itself. It answered many questions that I have never had to ask myself again throughout the unpredictability of life as a performer. That was the beginning of the mindset to pursue it as a profession, but there have been and continue to be inspirations that keep me motivated and focused.
JL: NOMS DE GUERRE is a socio-political drama that addresses the U.S. military policy and the damaging impact of PTSD on veterans and their family. Why do you feel this play is relevant to today’s audiences?
JS: I believe this play is relevant because there are so many veterans who have served in various conflicts overseas in the past few decades and returned home to environments that are either less than welcoming or indifferent due to the highly politicized perspectives of the United States’ military involvement. The play shows that we can’t ignore or take for granted any of the experiences of our veterans, including those who are highly directed or those who appear well adjusted. It also highlights the the recent events concerning the treatment of veterans. Their service to the country should dictate that we continue to serve them once they return. All of these issues are should be highlighted to illustrate the prevalence and significance.
JL: NOMS DE GUERRE also addresses women’s rights and recent restrictions places on health care for women. It’s been 50 years since the Women’s Liberation Movement swept the nation, where do you feel we are in terms of gender relations in the U.S.?
JS: Like various movements in America’s history, the Women’s Movement has taken tremendous strides forward but still finds itself in a continual struggle for gender equality and independence politically, economically, and socially. It’s amazing when you can see women as CEOs of some of America’s biggest and best corporations or being very close to holding the highest political office in the land. However, these achievements don’t erase the everyday battles that women face concerning equal pay, access to adequate and legal healthcare, or professional mobility. There are many unique circumstances that women face such as family vs. career or threat of sexual/domestic violence that most men never have to give a second consideration. The unfortunate part of the discussion of gender relations is that while we know that we live in a patriarchal society, it seems that there is a concerted effort present in some states to legally relegate women to a second-tier status as citizens by ignoring their voices and passing laws that are antithetical to their concerns.
JL: Which character are you playing? What, if anything, do you have in common with this character’s passions, values, intentions or belief system?
JS: I am playing Douglas Hamilton. I believe that we share an immense love for and fealty to family. He wants to protect his wife even it if means he’s seen in a negative light. He also has a strong internal sense of justice. He truly desires to find the truth. I’m sure there are others that a will be discovered also during our exploration of the play.
JL: What’s next for you as an actor? Where can we follow your work?
JS: What is next for me is more prayer and the continuous search for the next gig. You can follow my work or tales of it on Twitter: @jacquescsmith.
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I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!