Name, age, occupation, where are you from and where do you live now.
Jessica Lynn Johnson, Actress/Playwright, From St. Louis Missouri, lived in Astoria NY for a little over a year now.
You're in "Oblivious To Everyone," a play at the upcoming Fringe Festival - can you tell us a little about the project? How did you come up with the idea?
As a teenager, I was definitely a self-proclaimed smut-a-holic, tuning in to every sleazy dating show, every episode of Ricki Lake, Jerry Springer, Jenny Jones, reading every tabloid there was, etc. So, after awhile, the media's mixed messages, the pressures, the stereotypes, the portrayal of minorities, the obsession with physical perfection, all of it started to take a toll. I began realizing the negative effect all of these images and messages were having on me, on my perception of myself and of others. In college, I decided to allow the bubble I was living in to burst. I began tuning in to CNN and NPR. It's truly amazing what one can learn about the world around them when FRIENDS is not their only source of reality. That said, I wanted to write a provocative, truthful and FUNNY show that allowed my audience to laugh about their own guilty pleasures and get proactive (not the skin clearing solution) about changing our society.
What is your picture of a modern woman and how does that differ from the character you portray in your play?
That's just the thing, the "modern woman" is not something that can be defined or categorized. She can be many, many different things. She can be a stay-at-home mother, she can be a businesswoman, a terrible cook, a Betty Crocker, a tomboy, a girly girl, and all the greys in between. There are many valid choices for a woman in today's society. My character Carrie is a woman who is confused about WHO she is and what she is SUPPOSED to be because she takes her cues from the media.
Has the media had a large role in influencing how you view yourself as a woman? How so?
Of course. It is impossible not to be influenced. And I am not saying "influence" is bad. Everything in moderation. But obsession is possible, and if you don’t know who you are to begin with, obsession is probable. We live in an age where plastic surgery is just a reality show application away, and that is very scary. I am fortunate enough to truly love my body, not because it is perfect by the media's standards, but because it is perfect by my standards. However, the media just makes the task of loving myself that much harder because it constantly asks me to question if my teeth are white enough, if my butt is as big as J-Lo's, if my breasts are as perky as Jessica Simpson's, if I should get a nose job, Botox, collagen shots, etc. They can encourage me to buy a dress, but don't pressure me to get a brand new face. I want to encourage more women to be strong in who they are, exactly AS they are.
How did you go about becoming involved in the Fringe Festival? For those unfamiliar with it, what does it mean to be part of it?
It's a pretty standard process; turn in a script and all the appropriate materials. Then you WAIT. And if you're lucky, you get a THICK envelope, not a thin one:-) Being a part of the Fringe is a huge honor. Thousands submit, only a couple hundred make it. It's now a ten-year NYC tradition, creating limitless opportunity for new artists, and everything and anything is possible. My personal aspiration is to get picked up, and keep my doing my show and perhaps get paid for the work I have been doing. Dreams.
You've had several different types of rolls as an actress - from commercial work, to plays, to television - how do they all differ from each other?
The hours are different. Theatre requires longer commitments usually, months. Whereas, with a commercial or a guest star on a TV show, you're done that day or that week. However, your day is much much longer on that type of set. Acting wise, it isn't much different. Just playing a different character in a new setting just like always. However, the technique will vary. Theatre generally requires a lot of projection of the voice and body. Whereas, in film and TV, a little goes a long way.
You've recently moved to New York from Missouri, how are you taking to the adjustment? Do you find yourself using your "Brooklynese" to fit? Do you ever break out any other accents to mess with people?
Do you ever break out any other accents to mess with people? I love doing a Midwestern "twain" at auditions. I've booked a few big things by doing that. New Yorker's seem to really like a little midwestern flair. I truly love living in the city. It has the very best and the very worst of everything. You learn so much about yourself.
What place or thing would you declare a landmark?
The St. Louis arch. I love to stand below it and just watch it sway. It really does sway at the top. Kind of scary.
What advice, if any, would you give to Mayor Bloomberg?
Keep clean'n up the city! I hear it’s much cleaner than it use to be, but damn, the smells here sometimes are pretty intense. This is the greatest city in the world; I don't understand how people can just dump all over it.
When you just need to get away from it all, where is your favorite place in NYC to be alone?
"Oblivious to Everyone" is playing at the New York International Fringe Festival starting this Saturday at the Manhattan Children’s Theatre (ironically, the show is not for kids). For more information about the show, visit Jessica's website and to purchase tickets go to the Fringe Festival site.
Photo for "Oblivious to Everyone" by Steve Barrett