Before we announce the winners of the 2013 Boston My Theatre Awards, we’re proud to present our annual Nominee Interview Series.
Gorgeous and nerdy Jacqui Dupré portrayed strong, “back-bone” Stella Kowalski in Wax Wings Productions of A Streetcar named Desire, earning her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Play. She delights in this interview with the same joy, strength, and insight as she discusses her worst on-stage moment, her trajectory to Boston, and her spicy on-stage relationship with My Theatre Award nominee Jesse Wood.
Jacqui, thank you so much for talking with us. You were absolutely stunning and radiant in A Streetcar named Desire.
Why thank you, Brian. You can’t see me right now, but I’m blushing a little.
Talk to us about how you came to play the role of Stella. How did you hear about the production? What were your feelings about the show prior to the production? How was your audition? Did you want to play the part of Stella?
I received a Facebook Invite from Micah Greene (the Creative Director of Wax Wings Productions)! God, I love the internet. I had actually never read or seen the show prior to the audition, but I definitely have a thing for playing heartbroken Southern girls. I ended up getting the part, so I would hope the audition went well! And Stella is a dream role, but of course I was also interested in Blanche. Who wouldn’t want to play Blanche? Heartbroken, Southern, AND crazy. The best.
What was the most challenging part about playing such an iconic role? What did you want to bring to the role? How was your performance different than maybe other actresses’ performances?
As I mentioned, I’d never read or seen Streetcar prior to doing the show, but, ultimately, I think that it helped me absorb the text straight from Tennessee without any outside distractions or influences. I really felt Stella as a strong woman who is not used to having to explain or rationalize her circumstances to anyone, until she’s stuck in the middle of a rather unfortunate husband-sister-roommate situation. It was important to me that she felt really real and relatable. I think a lot of actresses tend to play Stella as the victim, when she’s actually the backbone of the Kowalski/Dubois household.
The play calls for a very complex and “it’s complicated” relationship between Stella and Stanley. You had amazing chemistry with Jesse Wood (Stanley, and also a 2013 Boston My Theatre Award Nominee for Best Actor in a Play). Not that it’s hard to have chemistry with Jesse, but what did you do to establish an intimate relationship? How did you grow into your roles together? Any inside tips for how to deal with Jesse as a fellow actor?
I’d never kissed a fellow actor in a show prior to this one, let alone, well, all that other stuff we did on stage. At the top of Scene Two, Stanley and Stella share a sweet little tiny kissing moment. When we put it on its feet in our second rehearsal, Jesse came into the space and just planted one right on my mouth. When he pulled away, I proclaimed, “Well that was… really weird,” and then burst out laughing. It was the perfect way to break the ice, and we became great friends almost instantly. We bonded over our love of really dorky things, like Game of Thrones and Final Fantasy and Dungeons & Dragons (he came to see me twice in She Kills Monsters, which was in its run while Streetcar rehearsals were happening). We became so comfortable with each other as friends that all of the really intimate stuff that we did on stage didn’t feel like a big deal at all.
What was your favorite moment on-stage as Stella? What has been your favorite theatre moment over the years? Most embarrassing moment?
It’s hard to pick one. I LOVED performing Act Two. I had this big pregnancy belly-suit that was all sweaty and smelly, but that I actually kind of loved wearing. I liked that it helped transform the way I walked and moved. I could dance in it backstage and look completely ridiculous… Anyway, Act Two has such a dramatic arc for Stella, and even though it was emotionally difficult for me every night, it was such a wholly gratifying experience.
I haven’t had a lot of on-stage experience (Streetcar was my fourth full-length show since I was 17), but I can’t pick a favorite. Every show that I’m in is my favorite theatre moment at the time, and I never, ever want that show to end when I’m in it.
I do have a most embarrassing moment, though. In Company One’s She Kills Monsters, I played a completely evil high school cheerleader-succubus. SO fun. Anyway, there’s this epic dance battle against the D&D dorks, and we win (the other evil cheerleader was played by Kaitee Treadway—we still call each other Evil Tina and Evil Gabbi whenever we hang out). Katie and I would run up and down the aisles, being obnoxious and slapping the audience members’ hands and just making a general ruckus. During the final performance, there was one woman in the aisle that wouldn’t slap my hand, so in my best booming, demonic voice, I commanded her to: “SLAP MY HAAAAND.” Instead, she unscrewed her bottle of Snapple and threw that Half and Half Lemonade Iced Tea right in my face. Luckily, Evil Gabbi died shortly thereafter, but I did have to come back on as the Narrator to close the show with wet, sticky, Snapple hair. Embarrassing, yes. But secretly? I was kind of proud that a poor, poor audience member was so invested in the performance that she actually felt the need to defend herself. I like to think of it as a testament to our acting as an ensemble. J
What is your favorite play? Book? Movie?
Ooo! That’s hard. Well, I love Martin McDonagh. I really enjoy reading every single one of his plays… aloud with friends in my living room, if I can find any takers. It sounds tremendously silly, but I love the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. I re-read it every couple of years or so. It just makes me feel like a better human. And Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is my favorite movie of all time. I want to be Gene Wilder. He’s such a genius. If there was a portal into his brain like in Being John Malkovich (which is my second favorite movie), I would want to live in there. And then Empire Strikes Back is number three. How did I sneak three in there? Sorry for cheating.
Let’s take a step back for a minute. Talk to us about who you are, where you’re from, your performance history. Did you ever have a conflicted love relationship with a Stanley?
I’m from Southern California (born in Upland), and I’ve lived all over the place. I went to high school in Cohasset, MA, where I wrestled with my desire to do theatre-versus-music-versus-writing-versus-mathematics-versus-dog-walking-versus-a-million-other-things. I went to four colleges, including Berklee College of Music, and ended up finding myself in film school at Full Sail near Orlando, where I flourished. I’ve worked in commercials, film, and TV (in the costume department) ever since I graduated in early 2006.
Barring some experience in high school, my performance history goes like this: I was at a New Year’s Eve party, and, shortly after ringing in 2012, I began telling an animated story in a Southern accent. My lovely friend (and quite possibly New Hampshire’s one and only internet media mogul) John Herman praised my accent, asked me if I had ever considered acting on-stage, and would I accept a part in a ten-minute, comedic, post-apocalyptic play. Of course, I said yes. After that, I took a couple of roles in ten-minute plays, including an immersive, site-specific play for Bostonia Bohemia that was directed by Daniel Bourque. Also at this time, I was trying to audition for Boston fringe theater companies, but I didn’t have a resume! I wasn’t getting any shows, until I auditioned for …Or Dreaming, which was Pariah Theatre Company’s immersive adaptation of A Dream Play. One of the Daughters (there were three in the adaptation) had dropped out, and Tara Brooks was looking for someone who could start rehearsals in three days. I had immersive theatre experience, and I was there, so I was cast. It was my first show! I was thrilled. Since then, I’ve been in Wax Wings’ Dr. Faustus, Company One’s She Kills Monsters, and, of course, Streetcar.
And to answer your last question, I actually did have a literal Stanley, but that’s something that I don’t really wish to talk about in-depth.
Do you have any crazy theatre rituals? Audition habits? Pre-show routines?
Not a one. Well… I do have a habit of learning monologues the night before an audition, but you can chalk that up to laziness rather than habit. And sometimes I’ll slug back a sugar-free Red Bull before a performance. But I’m kind of anti-pre-show routine.
What are some of your favorite roles? What are some roles that you would like to play in the future? What are some male roles as which you would typically never be cast?
Every role that I play is my favorite role at the time. It’s impossible for me to choose. And I would play them all again if I could. In the future? Vanda in Venus in Fur would be fantastic, although it’s running in Boston right now, so I feel like that’s a cop-out answer, but it’s true. I haven’t seen it, but when I read it for the first time over a year ago, I remember thinking, “This lady talks, acts, and reacts exactly like I do. Who is this David Ives person? Does he know me?” I am also completely enamored with Bachelorette by Leslye Headland. I want to play every single one of those female roles. I would even gain, like, 50 lbs. to play the bride if somebody really wanted me to.
I never really think about male roles that I would want to play on-stage, but in film? I want to be Batman.
Can you tell me a bit more about your process while working with Wax Wings Productions? Did you know anything about their prior work before you auditioned?
I was in Dr. Faustus with Wax Wings previously, so I knew that the Streetcar experience was going to be a great one.
We laughed SO MUCH as a cast and crew. During our first read-through, there was so much laughter coming from the rehearsal space, that the theater company rehearsing next door was really confused. “What’s going on in here?” they asked. “We thought you guys were doing A Streetcar Named Desire. Isn’t that supposed to be a sad play?”
Micah Greene is a doll, and she was SO PREGNANT while she was choreographing our fight scenes for Streetcar! She gave me “pregnancy lessons” during rehearsals, actually, so great timing on that conception, Micah! And Vicki Schairer is just one of those dream-director-life-friends that I can only hope to work with over and over again forever and ever as long as we both shall live. She has a clear vision, but the true rarity in her talent lies in the seamless convergence of her vision with yours as the actor. I have never had a director listen and care like Vicki. I can’t wait to see what else she does. J
You were close and affectionate with Danielle Kellerman (Blanche). Do you have any sisters? Any friends like sisters? Did any of these relationships mirror your relationship with Kellerman’s Blanche?
Danielle and I became sister-friends for sure. I have a younger sister, who I absolutely love and adore, but I’d never known what it was like to have an older sister until I met Danielle. And I’m actually older than she is! It was completely new to me, and I actually think that it made me a better older sister to my actual sister. Yeah, when I think of Danielle, I consider her to be more of a family member than a friend. I miss seeing her every day.
What has been your favorite place to visit? Is there any place that you would like to visit? Why?
That’s a strange question for me. I tend to take stock in experiences over places, and some of my favorite experiences have happened in mundane-sounding places. Like Little Rock, Arkansas or Carrollton, Missouri. (Have you ever been to Lambert’s in Ozark, MO? They throw huge, delicious rolls at you. It’s awesome.) Or exotic Jamaica Plain. J I want to go everywhere and see everything. But right now? Berlin and Istanbul are pretty high up on the list. Morocco and Tulum. I need some sunshine.
Do you have a favorite breakfast food?
You ask the hardest questions! Breakfast food, as a whole, is the best. I would say pancakes (or pernkerks, because this is for the internet). But then hashbrowns and Egg McMuffins exist too… making breakfast choices can be very confusing. Brian, are you offering to make me breakfast? Okay, I’ll be right over.
What have been some of your challenges as an actress? Is there anything at which you think that you’re particularly good?
Oh man. Well, now it’s learning lines. That is my greatest challenge. Nope, actually, I take it back; it’s learning choreography. I love dancing, and I don’t look terrible when I do it, but my muscle memory must be in a coma or something, because it takes my body SO LONG to get things down to the point where I don’t have to think and I just do. But I learn it. It just takes some extra practice on my part.
I’m good at emoting. I make faces and my eyes are expressive when I act (Jesse told me that, actually). Of course, I don’t know that any of this is going on, and I seem to actually have very little control over whatever my face is doing. Also, my comedic timing seems to be pretty good. But I’m still pretty new at all of this, so I’m still figuring out what I’m good at.
Why do you think you were nominated as a 2013 Boston My Theatre Award nominee for your performance as Stella?
That whole second act was a toughie. And, as I would tell Vicki, I was both terrified of it and grateful for it during every performance. But I could feel the heaviness in that space, and I knew that everyone watching could feel it too, and I think I had a big part in that. That was a really cool experience for me. I hope our audiences felt the same.
Do you have any upcoming projects or productions?
I do not! I want so badly to be in a show right now. I miss it terribly. But very, very soon, I hope.
Is there anything else that our readers should know about you? Do you have anything else that you wish to share with our readers?
It is late and I should probably go to bed now.