UTBA: Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Jay: I grew up in Salt Lake and have lived here all my life, with brief stints in New York and California. I went to school at Judge Memorial and then the University of Utah where I attended the Actor Training Program. I also trained at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. After college I kept acting but spent a few years in the corporate world and then started an online sales business. In 2006 I decided to pursue acting full-time. My wife Daisy and I live downtown and have a cat named Chester who thinks he’s a parrot.
UTBA: How did you get started in theater?
Jay: I grew up singing and my sister and I wrote and performed sketches for my parents in our living room. My first play was at the Vine Street Theatre in Murray when I was 13 after my neighbor dared me to audition. That same year I wrote a one-act play adaptation of Monty Python’s Holy Grail for a school talent show, and it killed. I tried out for more things in junior high and high school where I got the lead in the musical my senior year. I took that role quite seriously and spent most of my senior year preparing for it. On closing night I looked up into the lights and thought, “This is what I want to do.” I auditioned at the U and have been close to theatre ever since.
UTBA: What Utah shows have you been involved in? Any people would recognize you from?
Jay: Most recently, I was the narrator for The Rose Exposed’s Peter and the Wolf reading at Plan-B. There were a lot of little kids in the audience and interacting with them was pure joy. Other notable Plan-B shows include Lady Macbeth; She Was My Brother; the Script-In-Hand Series readings of A Doll House, The Normal Heart, and 8; Gutenberg! the Musical!; Tragedy: A Tragedy; The Alienation Effekt; three SLAM!‘s; and Facing East, which Plan-B ran twice in Salt Lake, then toured to Theatre Rhinoceros in San Francisco and Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theatre Stage II in New York. Other favorites have been Salt Lake Acting Company’s Charm, Dark Play, and Go, Dog. Go!; The Grand’s A Thousand Clowns; and Meat & Potato Theatre’s first Salt Lake production, Infantry Monologues.
UTBA: Tell us about Radio Hour and your role.
Jay: Radio Hour is old-fashioned entertainment for a modern audience. This year’s story, Episode 7: Sherlock Holmes and the Blue Carbuncle, was adapted for the radio by Plan-B’s resident playwright Matthew Ivan Bennett from the short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s hosted by Doug Fabrizio, who also plays Sherlock Holmes. We’ ll be performing to a live audience in the Jeanne Wagner Theatre at the Rose during the broadcast, a hold-over from the last two radio hour productions, Radio Hour: Alice and Radio Hour: Frankenstein.
I play a number of atmospheric characters including a once well-to-do, now down-on-his-luck gentleman who’s lost his Christmas goose; a spirited drunk; a boy; and a rather inept thief whom Holmes interrogates.
UTBA: You’ve been involved in Radio Hour for a while. How long? Why have you stuck with it?
Jay: It’s a blast! I’m the only actor that’s been in all of the episodes. I’ve really enjoyed the work and especially loved sharing it with so many immensely talented people over the years. Voice performance has become a favorite of all the acting genres for me. Radio drama is a great challenge for the actor and a lot of fun for the audience. The physical part of the work doesn’t stop happening, but it’s all done sitting on a stool into a mic. It really forces you to listen and since you’re creating a sound picture, it sometimes requires a different level of vocal precision than you would use on stage. It’s work that an actor has a rare opportunity to do these days which makes it a real treat. I feel very lucky to be working with this year’s incredible cast and creative team and I can’t wait to get back into the rehearsal room with them.
UTBA: Tell us a little about Plan-B.
Jay: I’ve done a lot of work with Plan-B. They always make the experience of working for them a positive one. They are innovative and have developed wonderful opportunities for a large number of Utah’s theater artists. Jerry [Rapier, Producing Director] and Cheryl [Ann Cluff, Managing Director] are passionate about everything that happens there and it’s contagious.
UTBA: What’s your favorite part about Utah theatre?
Jay: It’s a very exciting time to be a theatre artist in Utah. We have a vibrant scene with an absolute wealth of talent that has a great history. It’s growing now faster than ever, with some fantastic new people and organizations bringing fresh perspectives and pushing the envelope. Yet our community remains close-knit. The best part is that we have wonderful audiences who support and sustain our art.
UTBA: Any words for Utah audiences?
Jay: Our audiences are well-informed, always gracious, and particularly generous. Because our ticket prices are comparatively low, our audiences are relatively diverse and come from all different backgrounds and perspectives. This combined with their eager support and appreciation of all genres of theatre allows us to explore nearly anything. From the masterworks to the highly experimental, there is an audience for it here. Of course, each company tends to have their regular audience who influence and are influenced by that company’s unique creative style.
I’d like to encourage our audiences to bravely go where they haven’t gone before. To explore all the diversity that our many theatre, dance, opera, ballet and fine art organizations have to offer. And I’d also like to say thanks for their energy and support.