PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: The Performers Star Jenni Barber
By Matthew Blank
November 6, 2012
Jenni Barber, who plays Sundown LeMay in the new comedy The Performers at the Longacre Theatre, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.
Barber has previously appeared on Broadway in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Other theatre work includes As You Like It/The Tempest (Brooklyn Academy of Music/Old Vic), From Up Here (Manhattan Theatre Company), Cactus Flower (Westside Arts Theatre), The Wii Plays (Ars Nova), Some Lovers (the Old Globe), Nobody Loves You (the Old Globe) and The Unauthorized Biography of Samantha Brown (Orange County Performing Arts Center).
Full given name:
Jennifer Lynn Barber
Where you were born/where you were raised:
Mansfield, Ohio... same hometown as James Lapine. It's our bond.
Cancer. I nest.
Current audition song/monologue:
Rarely am I ever asked to prepare my own stuff anymore, but when I do I have a rotating list of charm songs dripping in double entendre.
Thank you very much, University of Michigan Musical Theatre Dept.
Something you're REALLY bad at:
Apparently cultivating a special skill.
First Broadway show you ever saw:
Ragtime. Audra and Marin. Power. Full.
Did you have any particular mentors or inspirations when first starting out?
My sixth grade teacher, Cheri Gaul and my theatre professor at U of M, Mark Madama. They were my rocks during incredibly formative times in my life and they are still at the top of my list when I need advice or just a shoulder to lean/cry on. I love 'em a lot.
If you could go back in time and catch any show, what would it be?
Carousel. That overture is an American masterpiece.
Recent show other than your own you have been recommending to friends:
Bad Jews at Roundabout Underground, Harper Regan (directed by the extraordinary Gaye Taylor Upchurch) at the Atlantic, and PigPen Theatre Company's The Old Man and the Old Moon at The Gym at Judson.
Some favorite modern musicals:
Sunday In the Park with George and even though I am biased, I think that The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was an incredible show.
Some favorite classic musicals:
Carousel (obviously) and Guys and Dolls
Your personal performance idols, living or dead:
Judy Holliday, Carol Burnett, and all the other brave, sexy, funny, soulful actor ladies carrying their banner today
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget:
Cate Blanchett in Streetcar was pretty magical.
Music that makes you cry, any genre:
Patty Griffin makes me weep.
MAC or PC?
Most played song on your iPod:
"Kazoo" by my brother's band Bells out of Berkeley, CA... check them out... they are extraordinary.
Smitten Kitchen, Huffington Post and, of course, my cast mate Alicia Sliverstone's The Kind Life. She's the coolest vegan in the land.
Last book you read:
"A Visit From the Goon Squad" was the last one worth mentioning. It's terrific.
Must-see TV show(s):
"Homeland," and seriously, "Parenthood" is the best primetime guilty pleasure. My girlfriends and I watch it and just cry. Monica Potter... I can't even deal.
Last good movie you saw:
"Argo" and "For A Good Time Call…" starring the luminous Ari Graynor.
Some films you consider classics:
"Singin' in the Rain"
"How to Steal a Million"
Performer you would drop everything to go see:
Cheyenne Jackson. The complete package.
Pop culture guilty pleasure:
"The Chew." It just looks like they have so much fun on that show! And they just laugh and eat and eat and laugh... oh man, I love it.
San Francisco, Paris and NYC!
Wolverines in every category. Go Blue!
First CD/Tape/LP you owned:
That I bought on my own? The Boys II Men tape single "On Bended Knee." I was such a romantic...
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living:
When I realized I couldn't be happier in any other profession.
How you got your Equity card:
Playing Maggie in A Chorus Line at the Music Theatre of Wichita
Favorite pre-/post- show meal:
I'm slightly obsessed with the vegetable udon at Onya on 47th and Lexington... perfectly light and soothing.
And I really love to cook, so ideally I would eat something yummy and homemade after a show.
Favorite liquid refreshment:
Red wine. Although I usually drink white wine at parties... I'm a little clumsy.
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups:
I run all over the Longacre in sky-high heels, so I really need to warm up my ankles and hips as well as do core work to prevent injury.
So those kinds of exercises and, you know, I guess... lip trills?
What drew you to this project?
The writer, David West Read, has written a funny, heartwarming, and super entertaining play about love, relationships and career all set against the absurd backdrop of the adult film industry. It is irresistible.
What has been the biggest challenge about the show so far?
Trying not to break character and laugh out loud in the middle of this hilarious play... I mean, Henry Winkler is just always, always cracking me up!
Worst costume ever:
The sugar bowl in a regional production of Beauty and the Beast. Ugh.
Who have you played on "Law & Order"? What edition?
A Canadian high school student named Allie on SVU. I wore this awful purple turtleneck in the courtroom scene.
If you could trade roles/tracks with anyone in the show for a week, who would it be?
I guess I would trade roles with Daniel Breaker's character... a dry, kinda nerdy writer from the New York Post. Of course, it should never happen because I could never be as genius, funny and adorable as Mr. Breaker.
Leading lady role you've been dying to play:
Viola in Twelfth Night, Irina in Three Sisters, Dot in Sunday in the Park and Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls (played it in college, but I could do that show forever).
Leading man role you wish you could play:
Eh, the guys can keep their roles... there are so many more ladies out there I wanna play.
Something about you that surprises people:
I've never seen Rent.
Something you are incredibly proud of:
My ladies. I am so lucky to know and love some incredible women. Watching many of them achieve success this year as directors, writers, actors, producers, mothers, and partners fills me with so much pride and joy.
Something you're embarrassed to admit:
My iPhoto is pretty much 40% adorable nieces and nephews and 60% food.
Career you would want if not a performer:
Food and travel writer
Three things you can't live without:
I wouldn't survive this world without my husband, family and friends.
"I'll never understand why…"
… you never ever see baby pigeons in New York City. I mean, there are so many adult pigeons, why no babies? I feel that this is just further proof that pigeons are aliens.
Words of advice for aspiring performers:
Be open. Be generous. Be kind. It will serve you in this business and beyond.