TAKE A TEN with Jen Anaya

March 30, 2018


One Thousand Nights and One Day Actor, JEN ANAYA, answers 5 big questions and 5 little ones while on break!

1) Who or what inspired you to become a performer or enter into Theatre Arts?

Hmm. I don’t know that there was one person or thing. My parents played guitar and sang in church when I was growing up, so I was singing before I could speak. Playing a lamb in the school Christmas play was pretty momentous, it made me realize that on stage, one could be anything and people would listen, you could make them laugh and cry. Moving people seemed a worthy and engaging pursuit. My brother and I would write plays and songs and perform them with our marionettes. In high school I had an incredible Music Theater director who took a group of us to see the tour of The King and I in Tempe and she told me that if I wanted to, I could be a performer. That permission was all I needed.

2) Why is Theatre important to you?

Because it’s so POWERFUL!!! Nothing has the power to move the human spirit like theatre. Storytelling is powerful. The stories we tell matter. The way in which we tell them and the people that get to tell them matter so much.  I just saw Folk Wandering in the very theater our show will be in. It was GLORIOUS! I sat there and sobbed for pretty much the whole thing. Theatre has the ability to change our minds, to inspire empathy, unlock things inside of us. I once got to play a young woman whose mother, father and lover were all killed within minutes of each other. She sings a song as she holds her dead mother in her arms. After a show, an audience member came up to me and told me through tears that her mother had passed a few months before and she had found herself completely unable to cry since it had happened and had no idea why. She said seeing that moment broke something open in her and she was so relieved and grateful that her grieving could begin. That will always stay with me.

3) This show is so relevant to current events- what do you hope audiences take away from it?

That it’s all a story! That we have the power to create our stories, to change them!

I really hope that people walk away examining their perspectives of the world around them. I’ve long been fascinated by the Toltec concept of the Dream of the World, the collective beliefs we hold as a human race that get passed down from generation to generation and how powerful those stories are.This story, this show is an invitation for people to really sift through and examine those beliefs that dictate how we navigate through the world and decide if they’re helping or hurting. There is a shift happening in our society led by people who don’t believe the old stories anymore. It’s super exciting and inspiring and the more people continue to look inward, the faster the shift will occur and the better off we’ll all be.

4) Who would you most like to work with?

Oof. That is a heck of a question. Right now, I’m beyond ecstatic to be working with this company. I want to work with every single one of these humans as much as possible. Outside of that, people who really love collaboration, free exploration and do heart centered work in a heart centered way.

There’s a wonderful line from a wonderful musical called Found, it says “I wanna do something that I love and do it with people that I love.”

When it comes right down to it, the dream is to work with my friends. I’ve gotten to work with Marisa Michelson a lot in the last few years starting with Tamar of The River and then with her group Constellation Chor. Her work brought me back to New York.

There are so many ridiculously talented playwrights, composers and directors that I am lucky to be around and I really look forward to seeing their work get produced and would so love to go on that ride with them. I’m super moved by the work of Troy Anthony, Jillian Walker, Nic Grelli, Riley Thomas, Ty Defoe, Tidtaya Sinutoke, Keelay Gipson, Forrest Malloy, EllaRose Chary, Brandon James Gwinn, Matt Frey, Melisa Tien, Avi Amon. The list is so long. It’s a gift to know so many incredible artists.

5) What is coming up next for you?

I’m looking forward to going back to Friday mornings with Constellation Choir. The group has been the cornerstone of my artistic life in the last two years and I’ve missed it. I’m really excited to be a part of the upcoming musical Hatuey: A Memory Of Fire. It’ll have a workshop in late May and a run in September. And this summer I’ll be writing, working on a solo show I’ve been writing called Love: A How Not To Guide.

— 5 till places!—

6) Favorite album in high school?

For my 14th bday I asked my parents for the Time Life collection of Rock and Roll from 1954-1962. Listened to it nonstop for a long long time.

7) Cats or Dogs?

Dogs. And cats that think they’re dogs.

8) What are you reading?

Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby. It’s gorgeous and heartbreaking and it has another story written along the bottom of the pages. It’s a story alongside another story, which is pretty fitting.

9) Best way to spend your day off?

Ah sweet sweet sleeping in!! I stay in bed as long as possible on a day off. After that, running or dancing, spending time with friends, meditating, being outside if it’s not freezing, baths are wonderful, catching up on all the things I can’t seem to get to the rest of the week and skyping with my goddaughters!

10) What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Oh, I’ve been blessed to get to be around some very wise souls and have received some really great advice. There are two pieces of advice that have fully changed my life.  My best friend once told me that I should talk to myself the way I would talk to my own child. That has been an invaluable practice.  It’s amazing how negative and detrimental our language and attitude can sometimes be towards our own selves.  And, a long time ago, when I was struggling with who I should be and where I should go and what I should do, a woman took my hand and said, “Be here. Right now.” Not the easiest thing to manage, but I find that when I start to get overwhelmed by what is ahead, I remind myself that all I can do is be here, right now.

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