PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Pippin Star Rachel Bay Jones
By Matthew Blank
April 9, 2013
Rachel Bay Jones, who plays Catherine in the new Broadway revival of Pippin, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.
Jones has appeared on Broadway in Hair (Mother, Buddhadalirama) and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (u/s, performed Lucia).
Other theatre work includes Hello Again (The Actress) at Transport Group, A Christmas Story (Mother), Sylvia (Sylvia) and The King and I (Anna), among others.
Full given name:
Rachel Bay Jones. The middle name is that of my beloved grandfather, Harry Bay Jones, Jr. He was a tough, joke-telling Midwesterner with a butterball heart, who told me to save my money (sorry, Papa), and follow my dreams.
Where you were born/where you were raised:
Born in NYC, raised mostly in Sunny Florida. My family all lives on Maui now, and that’s been my “hometown” for awhile.
What your parents did/do for a living:
My parents are Shakespearean actors turned health food store proprietors. Back in the day my mother Mona Feit did a production of Chekhov’s The Boor, produced by none other than Fran and Barry Weissler, who I work for now in Pippin. All in the family.
Darren, my beautiful brother, who never caught the show biz bug. (He’s the smart one.)
Current audition song/monologue:
I have no skills.
Something you're REALLY bad at:
Pirouettes! I get dizzy and fall down, usually giggling, like when I was six.
First Broadway show you ever saw:
La Cage aux Folles. My progressive Nana took me at a completely inappropriate age. My jaw was unhinged, and I spent the whole show trying to figure out where the boys were.
If you could go back in time and catch any Broadway show, what would it be?
The Music Man with Robert Preston
Some favorite modern musicals:
Passion, Hello Again, Shrek. I loved Shrek.
Some favorite classic musicals:
King and I, 1776, Guys and Dolls
Broadway or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with:
So many. Gene Kelly! But I think the klutzy-pirouette thing would’ve gotten in the way of our working relationship.
MAC or PC?
MAC. So pretty.
Last book you read:
"Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin. I read it almost every year.
Must-see TV show(s):
Ok, here's the thing: the only television shows I really watch are nature documentaries where the narrator has a soothing (preferably British) voice and the camera shots are long and slow.
It's stressful living and working in Manhattan, and I like to use my TV like a big picture window into the woods, or the porthole of a submarine! So, right now it's David Attenborough, "Blue Planet." Gorgeous.
Last good movie you saw:
It's crazy, but it's rare for me to watch anything other than cartoons, sci-fi or superhero movies. But I did see "Lincoln" and loved it.
Some films you consider classics:
"Mr. Deeds Goes to Town"
"The Purple Rose of Cairo"
"The Sound of Music"
Three favorite cities:
Detroit, NYC, and does the whole island of Maui count?
My boyfriend Benim Foster keeps begging me to find an interest in any sport so we will have something in common other than acting. I am thinking men’s water polo. I could get on board with watching shirtless men splash around for an hour or so. It’ll bring us closer together as a couple.
First CD/Tape/LP you owned:
I don't remember, but I bet it had folk music on it.
First stage kiss:
As a teenaged Daisy, in a production of Biloxi Blues. I was in love.
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living:
I still don’t! I remember the moment I first knew I wanted to be a marine biologist, though... (That didn’t pan out.)
How you got your Equity card:
As a teenager, in a production of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. I auditioned barefoot, sitting on the edge of the stage, singing "One Tin Soldier," a 1960’s era anti-war song, a cappella. Of course I did.
Favorite pre-/post- show meal:
Pre-show: a petite soup at Green Symphony
Post-show: Shake Shack! Extra pickles!
Favorite liquid refreshment:
Water, nice red wine. Also, the spirulina-acai smoothie at my family’s health food store on Maui. And during the show, hot water and honey, cause Danny Burstein told me it soothes a dry throat, and he's right.
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups:
Coffee! Chatting too much with castmates, currently with Charlotte d’Amboise, about our hectic mommy-days and sleep deprivation. Then right before curtain I’ll touch my toes or something while Patina laughs at me and asks if I’m warming up for my big trapeze act. (I don’t have a trapeze act. No one would trust me on a trapeze.)
Most challenging role you have ever played:
Eva in Evita, in Spanish, a language I do not speak. It's amazing what our brains can do under pressure. (And a cheat sheet in the Casa Rosada for opening night. "No llores por mi, Argentina…")
Craziest audition story:
I'm a very shy person, and most of my audition stories are terrifying or sad. I think I may actually have had an out of body experience auditioning for Frank Wildhorn's Civil War. All I remember is my view of his shoes... from the perspective of one who is hovering up around the ceiling. That counts as crazy, right?
What has been the biggest challenge about this project?
The role I play is usually not in the first act but we decided, as one of the players in this circus troupe, she should be. Not as Catherine, but as a clown. Clowns make me uncomfortable, and I liked the idea of exploring that. So I spent a good part of the development period with Diane Paulus, Gypsy Snider and Nancy Harrington finding out who this clown would be, and what she has to say--wordlessly.
What has been the most fun or fulfilling aspect?
I interact directly with the audiences in a way I rarely have in a musical. It's indescribable, fascinating joy. And Matthew as Pippin is delish: so alive.
If you could trade roles with anyone in the cast for a week, who would it be?
Gregory Arsenal, one of our amazing French-speaking acrobatic "flyers" and a true clown. I'd love to feel what it's like to do what he does so gracefully. And I think his Catherine would be something to see.
Leading lady role you've been dying to play:
Sondheim writes such beautiful deep women. Dying to work on one of them.
Leading man role you'd like a shot at:
Meh. Women are enough of a challenge for me right now!
Something about you that surprises people:
I am not a vegetarian, and I have lurking rage. (These two facts are not related. I hope.)
Something you are incredibly proud of:
My radiant daughter
Something you're embarrassed to admit:
I fight sadness a lot.
Career you would want if not a performer:
Three things you can't live without:
Butter, denim, Benim and my daughter, Miranda. That's four.
"I'll never understand why…"
… most Broadway musicals seem to shy away from casting performers (especially women) who are more diverse physical "types" and unconventionally beautiful. I'd like to see this evolve.
Words of advice for aspiring performers:
Know the warty truth about yourself, and try hard to forgive it; it'll serve you in your understanding of the strange theatricality of this life. Find where humor sleeps in everything. Make the most terrifying choice, 'cause, wow, what could happen then?! Love your audience, and remind them we are all connected.