Actress Jennifer Damiano, who made her Broadway debut while in high school in the rock musical Spring Awakening, has already accumulated an impressive array of credits. In addition to the Tony-winning Awakening, the young artist earned a Tony nomination for creating the role of Natalie in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Next to Normal and later originated the part of Mary Jane Watson in one of the most-written about shows in Broadway history, the high-flying spectacle Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Now, the New York native has turned her attention to the new Off-Broadway musical Venice, which is currently in previews at The Public Theater. The Public Lab production of Matt Sax, Eric Rosen and Curtis Moore's musical, which is also directed by Rosen, casts Damiano as Willow Flower opposite the Markos Monroe of Leslie Odom, Jr. and the Venice Monroe of Haaz Sleiman. Last week I had the pleasure of catching up with the gifted actress, who spoke about her recent and current projects; that interview follows.
Question: Although we've spoken before, I've never asked where you born and raised…
Jennifer Damiano: I was born in Westchester, NY. I grew up around the Rye Brook area, and then I moved to White Plains with my family.
Question: How old were you when you started performing?
Damiano: I think I started performing when I was about nine years old.
Question: When you were growing up, were there any actors or singers who influenced you?
Damiano: I was pretty new to the Broadway world once I began working in it. I hadn’t really grown up being too aware of that many shows or that many actors in shows. I was always obsessed with Judy Garland though. Obviously, I watched "The Wizard of Oz" all the time, and I wanted to be her. [Laughs.]
Question: When do you think performing changed from a hobby to when you knew it was going to be your career?
Damiano: I think it probably changed during Spring Awakening. It was hard because at that point I was in tenth grade, so it still kind of felt like a hobby. But once I got out of high school and was doing Next to Normal, I realized that that was what I was supposed to be doing. Working during high school, no matter what, kind of makes you feel like it’s an after-school activity. I mean, it never really was that, but that only became clear after I was completely finished with school and kind of realized that this was it.
Question: Last time we spoke, you were in previews for Spider-Man with all the news swirling around. Looking back at the whole experience, what do you remember most from being a part of that production?
Damiano: There's no learning experience like that! [Laughs.] I think I remember most the feeling of enduring, and performing becoming about more than performing…becoming about courage and strength and bravery and mostly just the internal struggles that you go through in a process like that and how you overcome that and how we all did that together.
Question: Do you think all of what was happening in and around the show drew the cast closer in a way?
Damiano: Yeah, I think that I’ll never have another experience like that. I think we can all say that. [Laughs.] But I believe we kind of collectively came together as these kind of warriors of our own craft. It was like a collective – like we were all running a marathon together. It felt like some sort of athletic feat that we all pulled off together, and I just remember most that feeling.
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