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Meet Actor Jen Gantwerker

Jen is performing in The Mall, the next #newworkshop selection in Now & Then's 3rd season. Artistic Director John Perovich had a chance to speak with Jen about her process. The Mall by Jesse Saywell will be presented to audiences Friday, February 21 at 7:30PM and Saturday, February 22 at 11:00AM.

John Perovich (JP): Jen, you've returned to Now & Then! You were in our very first show—Medea—back in 2017. Welcome back! Can you share a bit with us about your character?

Jen Gantwerker (JG): Sarah was everything in high school, and high school was everything for her. Since graduation, she has struggled to find as much happiness and meaning in adult life, and necessarily settled for less. She tries to fight for what she knows is right, but is so deeply dependent on the approval of others that she often falls devastatingly short. Her sense of self is completely tangled up with her appearance, her failures, and the expectations of those around her, but she holds out hope that one day she’ll figure out who she wants to be – and will be strong enough to become that person.

JP: When I first read The Mall, I struggled to be empathetic toward Sarah's character...and now, hearing how you're describing her...I am starting to understand the complicated depths of this character. Next question! Workshops are different from traditional rehearsal processes. Can you share a bit with us about your process for this workshop?

JG: The process of working on The Mall has fit nicely into my process as an actor.  I do a lot of text analysis, using the way the character speaks – word choice, punctuation – as clues to who they are and what they want.  We’ve spent a lot of time this week on table work – talking about the characters and their relationships, filling in details about their backstories, and figuring out why they make the choices they do from moment to moment – and having Jesse there to answer questions and provide background has been invaluable. Cody’s directing process is very collaborative, which I love, and has capitalized on the unique opportunity to have all of us in the room making discoveries together.

JP: Table work is one of my favorite moments in a process. It is about making those discoveries together...and having a shared process...I find that incredibly valuable and rare. I can't speak for others, but sometimes I find that we get up on our feet (start moving around, blocking, etc.) too soon...before we all, together, understand what's making the story and its characters tick. A workshop is all about mining and exploring the inner workings of stories and their characters—it's also fun! Final question: There are so many options for entertainment in our lives. Why should audiences join us for The Mall?

JG: Yes, there are lots of options for how folks can spend their weekend, but only one allows them to be able to brag that they saw The Mall before theatres around the country started producing it. It is beautifully written, universal in its themes, but exquisitely detailed in its story and relationships. It captures the misgivings many of us have about moving forward while warning of the danger of remaining stuck in the past. Come out and see it while you can!

The Mall by Jesse Saywell will be presented to audiences this Friday, November 21 at 7:30PM and Saturday, February 22 at 11:00AM. For info and tickets, click here.