PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: My Name Is Asher Lev's Jenny Bacon

By Matthew Blank
July 9, 2013

Jenny Bacon, who plays the role of Rivkeh in Off-Broadway's My Name Is Asher Lev, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.



Bacon's Off-Broadway credits include Heartless (Signature), In the Wake (The Public), Omnium Gatherum (Variety Arts), The Orphan of Zhao (Lincoln Center), More Stately Mansions (Herald Angel Award), A Streetcar Named Desire, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told (NYTW), Race (CSC), Arabian Nights (MTC), Carson McCullers (Historically Inaccurate) and Get What You Need (Atlantic).





Full given name: Jenny Kosher Bacon
Where you were born/where you were raised: Born and grew up on the south side of Chicago. Don't ask me about baseball.
Zodiac Sign:Copernican
What your parents did/do for a living:I was raised by a single mother psychologist, so essentially, I'm Jewish.
Siblings:One brother--if you're ever in Portland Oregon, go to his restaurant, The C Bar.
Special skills:Avoiding fun.
Something you're REALLY bad at: Chinese
First Broadway show you ever saw: A Chorus Line. My granny took me. It had been on forever, but I loved to dance--I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
If you could go back in time and catch any Broadway show, what would it be? One Man, Two Guvnors
Did you have any particular mentors or inspirations as a young actor? Frank Galati--I had dropped out of college and was doing shows in Chicago, and everyone kept saying: Northwestern! I resisted, until I read a transcript of a speech that Frank had delivered to the League of Chicago Theaters.

His careful eloquence, his absolute love and faith in the power and place of live performance jumped out from these little pieces of paper in my hands, an appeal to action!

And I said, "I have to find this man. I have to see him. Can I go hear him speak?" And my friend said, "Well, he teaches at the Performance Studies Department at Northwestern…" so I went. His generosity of spirit still maintains me through the rough patches.

Current or recent shows you recommended to friends: Natasha and Pierre
Favorite showtune(s) of all time: Ummm... they all make me cry. Especially the happy numbers.
Favorite musicals: Chess, Urinetown
Some favorite modern plays: Rx, Stage Kiss, The Evildoers, Jerusalem, U.S. Drag
Some favorite modern playwrights: Kate Fodor, Sarah Ruhl, David Adjmi, Rajiv Joseph, Greg Kotis, Gina Gionfriddo
Broadway or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with: Douglas Fairbanks, Fred Astaire, Mae West
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: A rehearsal of The Grapes Of Wrath in Chicago. They did it without anything (no props, no set, no costumes, no nothing), but they knew it so deeply and the connections were so raw and real and deeply inhabited that you saw and believed absolutely everything--the rain, the car, everything.
Music that makes you cry, any genre: "Puff the Magic Dragon"
You personal acting idols: Stephen Barker Turner
MAC or PC? Linux
Most-visited websites: Man Repeller, The Hindu Opinion Page
Most played song on your iPod: I actually do not own an iPod.
Last book you read: "Tenth of December" by George Saunders
Must-see TV show(s): Nothing has quite compared to "The Wire." "Girls" is great.
Last good movie you saw: "Filling the Void"
Some films you consider classics: "Jackie Brown," "Love and Death," "Wall-E"
Performer you would drop everything to go see: Lois Smith
Pop culture guilty pleasure: "Collapse" by Jared Diamond
Three favorite cities: Florence, Italy; Galway, Ireland, Chicago, IL
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," a hand me down from my aunt who had become a Sikh. It changed my life.
First stage kiss: The Diary of Anne Frank at the 8th grade Thanksgiving Assembly.
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: The Diary of Anne Frank at the 8th grade Thanksgiving Assembly.
Favorite pre-/post- show meal: 5 Napkin Burger
Favorite liquid refreshment: Water, preferably filtered, room temperature, or only slightly chilled.
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: A cup of something warm, vocalizing with William S. Burroughs' "Advice to Young People" and gossiping. I hate having a dressing room all by myself. I like a couple of really good belly laughs or some righteous indignation before a performance.
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: One performance of Morning Star by Sylvia Regan at Steppenwolf, during a quick change my wig felt funny. My dresser said, "We don't have time to check it! Go go go!"

So I'm out onstage having a conversation with my mother, when my rotten little sister comes out and she's wearing my hair!! And it is way too big for her! And as we look at each other, the realization dawns in both of our eyes that if she is wearing my hair, then I must be wearing hers... and we barely made it through the scene. Or, when Vershinin said, "But, weren't there... TWO sisters?"

Worst costume ever: Kuan Yin in Journey to the West. It looked beautiful. But it couldn't be washed and it was an incredibly physical show for me, with a million entrances all over the stage, including flying (which means you're hovering in the broiling hot lighting grid for a good long time before you get "dropped").

About a month in, my poor dresser had to whisper to me as we waited up there one night, "I'm so sorry Jenny, but you are RANK!" and had to move her head away from me. So much for godly transcendence.

Worst job you've ever had (non-theatrical): Telemarketer. I had a 0% success rate. Because I hate to disagree with people! I did have one nice conversation with an old man in the middle of nowhere, but he didn't want whatever it was I was selling either. I think they fired me after the first day.
What drew you to this project? The moment that Asher shows his paintings to his parents. The bravery required to discover yourself is almost insurmountable (see: the psychological profession). The bravery required to reveal yourself completely is terrifying. And to do so to the people you love and value the most, who you also feel the need to protect from that full expression is devastating. And yet, what else can one do? I read the moment in the script and burst into wailing, racking sobs. On the train.
Were you familiar with the material/history before taking on this project? I had worked with Naama Potok on a beautiful play in Chicago (she was the yellow princess; I was the white princess) and we discovered that we have an otherworldly connection.

I subsequently discovered that her father's work resonates the same way she does: with a remarkable accessibility through the absolute specificity of his story. Who would think that the story of an Hasidic Artistic Prodigy in the 1950s would turn out to be so positively, exquisitely, personally universal?

Most challenging role you have played onstage: Sara in NYTW's production of More Stately Mansions. Absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the challenge, and absolutely nothing could have been more rewarding. It brought me to New York!!
Who have you played on "Law & Order"? What edition? Cop accused of murdering her abusive cop ex-boyfriend (innocent- "Law & Order"); Quaker who refuses to prosecute her rapist because they prayed together (guilty- "SVU"); doctor studying a limbic system disorder that predisposes you to violence while (unknowingly) suffering from the very syndrome she studies and committing violent copycat crimes for her imprisoned boyfriend (definitely guilty- "Criminal Intent"); bereaved widow of a murdered bisexual man (definitely innocent- "SVU")
Some favorite screen or commercial appearances: All the "Law & Order"s
Leading lady role you've been dying to play: Anyone who is funny
Leading man role you'd like a shot at: Anyone who kisses lots of people
Something about you that surprises people: I'm not actually Jewish.
Career you would want if not a performer: Neurobiologist, War Zone State Department Diplomat, Mail Lady
Three things you can't live without: Skin by Mamie at 5th and 31st, my mother's advice, death
"I'll never understand why…" … people use disposable diapers instead of cloth ones.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: Find out everything you possibly can to love, and learn, learn, learn about all of them, never stop reading and learning. Auditions are not tests; they are YOURS, your time to experience whatever it is to fall in love. Yep, most of the time you get crushed. But every so often...