Updated: Aug 6
Inspiring Artists Stories
Today we'd like to introduce you to Jamie Roberts
Current Location: La Mirada, CA
Jamie, thank you for taking the time to share your story. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself?
I will try to make a long story short. A shyly spoken- and probably only heard by the person next to me- "Yes, Miss Hannigan" was my theater debut. I was three and in preschool. In the following years I embraced the theater arts at every opportunity -- ballet, jazz, tap, piano, South Coast Repertory classes, Theatrefaire for Children, Rainbow Singers (now The Musical Theater of Orange County), Drama and Choir throughout my high school career (Irvine High). One of my best memories of college was a semester in London where attendance at a theater production was mandated each and every week. These productions often included private tours, talk backs with cast members, or discussions with the production team. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect experience.
After college, I went straight to Hollywood. Well, I became a personal and special event publicist, in Hollywood. While living in “Tinseltown” I took improv lessons graduating from the Second City Conservatory; however, after a few years working publicity I wanted to do more. I stopped fighting my mother's advice, earned a teaching credential, and took the reins of the Drama department at Los Amigos High School. These eager theater enthusiasts were brimming over with energy and excitement. In the ten years of productions and introductions to productions at SCR and Segerstrom Center where those operations generously gave backstage tours and performer meet and greets, my very earnest students blossomed.
Other opportunities then emerged. I have directed a few main stage productions and taught at The Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts. Directing these talented students was also delightful and fulfilling (Mom can be right sometimes!). Yet most exciting of all, with the encouragement of a very dear friend of mine, after a twenty-year hiatus from being in an 'on-stage' role in a production, I gathered my courage and auditioned for ”Hello, Dolly!” at The Rose, and I loved it all! The nervousness of auditioning, the fun of rehearsing, the excitement of performing, and best of all - friendships with my kinda people!
From "Yes, Miss Hannigan" to obnoxiously throwing myself at Shoeless Joe Hardy, I am so grateful to have reignited my passion for this side of theatre with such amazing people.
Can you tell us a little more about what you've been working on recently?
Due Covid, during the 2020 - 2021 school year, Hadden, my husband, and I worked from home, where an unsolicited supporting character Graham, our three-year-old son, jumped on and off my Zoom classes and meetings. During this crazy time, I started teaching theater as well as film studies for Walnut High School of the Arts. Next school year is being planned and boy - howdy, do I look forward to taking students to the stage. I look forward to being a producer and director for these awesome students as much as they are eager to be on the stage.
As previously stated, I am a mom of an adorable and extremely active 3-year-old. I love seeing him grow and learn new things everyday. As the saying goes, “The days are long, but the years are short.” My family is the light of my life, and I love every moment I get to share with them.
Are there any lessons you've learned along the way, maybe something you would tell your younger self?
The number one thing I would tell my younger self is: Don't care so much about what people think of you! I spent so much energy in my younger years too concerned about what other people thought. I never fully committed to a character for fear of looking foolish. Thanks to an epiphany I had during one of my improv classes in my mid-twenties I began to lose that self-consciousness and put it behind me...mostly. I can only commit to the scene or character if I set aside wondering what everyone else thinks. Much more success as an actor, director, teacher, and person came after coming to that realization.
What's the best piece of advice you've received?
“An audition is just an opportunity to perform and show off what you bring to the table. Enjoy having the time to perform.” As I said above, my audition for “Hello, Dolly!” was my first in twenty years. I had been teaching and directing at that point for somewhere around seven years and had become very comfortable in that role, but I knew I needed to challenge myself and remember what my students go through as actors. I had a friend, who I’ve known since first grade and grew up doing theater together, come talk to my class about her experiences on Broadway, television, film and writing. When I asked her how she handles auditions, this was her response, and it really resonated with me. She was one of my biggest cheerleaders for auditioning for the show and returning to my acting roots. I was SO NERVOUS, but when I remembered this mantra, I decided to enjoy my time in front of the casting table, no matter how much pain I was in after having run my first half marathon that morning, and I have kept that advice in my mind ever since and share it with my students every year.
What would you consider your "proudest" moment?
There have so many moments of my career I have been proud of that it’s extremely difficult to narrow it down to one. So many productions I have been so proud to direct - “Flowers for Algernon”, “The Miracle Worker”, “Inherit the Wind”, “The Diary of Anne Frank”, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” only to name a few. But the moments that really make me proud are when I have former students come back and tell me how they use skills that I taught them in their classes and careers, whether in the arts or not; that’s when I really know that I made a difference. Thanks to social media, I get to keep up with so many alumni and see their journeys beyond high school including attending their weddings. I get to see these amazing people accomplish their goals and dreams knowing that I may have played some small role in it; that fills my heart.
What inspires you as an artist?
I draw inspiration from watching others do what they love to do. I learn from talking with other directors, actors, and teachers. Their contagious passion ushers me to become a better director, actor and teacher.
What role do you think the Arts and Artists play in today's society?
I recently shared a post on facebook of a picture of a theater in Houston that has posted the following quote on their wall: “We sit together in the dark to know how to love each other in the light.” I think that perfectly sums up the role arts play in life. We experience a particular journey with these characters who we get to know intimately in a couple of hours, and we walk away reflecting on ourselves and our roles and lives. We become more empathetic to others having learned the stories of the characters we just saw on stage. Yes, the arts are a much needed brief escape from our own individual realities, but the arts have the responsibility to hold a mirror up to society to get us to reflect on what is truly happening and create change.
What are your hopes for the future of the Arts?
I so look forward to all theaters opening their doors once again soon to bring more amazing stories to life. I so miss sitting in a theater, awkwardly wondering if I should put my elbow on the arm rest next to me or let the other person have it, waiting for the lights to go out to escape my reality for a while and enter into a different world.
Walnut High School of the Arts: Website
Walnut High School Drama: Website
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