Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An Ode to Tom Wojtunik

I think Tom Wojtunik is a brilliant director and the "next big thing" and not just because he's cast me in two shows.
But yes, he has indeed cast me as a leading lady in two shows (Ragtime and The Who's Tommy), but there have been many shows he hasn't cast me in, and rightly so. He is that good of a director, and that good of a friend. We actors can have really ridiculous egos, and to know that a director appreciates and admires your work, but also appreciates it enough to know what you can excell at and what someone else might be better in, and NOT cast you, is also a compliment of some sort. I know if Tom calls me about a project, it's because he really thinks I'm right for it.

Tom cast me as Mother in Ragtime when I had no New York credits and had barely been here for a few weeks. And he told me the best advice that I've ever gotten in rehearsal. We were blocking and staging "Back To Before", Mother's big 11-o'clock number, and after a few tries he said something along the lines of:

Stop trying. You're doing it. Just do it.

And I did.

There was an artistic director of a theatre that shall remain nameless who told me that I "wasn't really an actor", I was "just a singer". Now, this man was wrong. But as a young kid right out of college, it broke my heart. There have been many directors who have said otherwise, but it hard to let go of that Negative Tape! But when I feel it creeping back, I remember one of the reviews of Ragtime:

“Jensen also drives the show in her own right. Mother undergoes a sea change of emotional realizations throughout Ragtime, which the actress underscores with subtlety and grace. Jensen also has a gorgeous voice, put to great use in the number “Back to Before.” Rare is the actress who can take a few minutes of standing still and alone on stage and turn it into a command performance.”
--Doug Strassler, offoffonline.com

But you know what, that's all Tom. Tom is the one who told me to stand still alone on stage. If he hadn't, I would have been "acting" or doing something dumb.

Tom also asked me to audition and cast me in The Who's Tommy. He has watched me cry more times than I can count. He has consoled me through actor neurosis. And he still has managed to turn out a fantastic project. His work is continuously praised, I don't need to tell you this, since every newspaper or online review already will.

The next big thing, Tom Wojtunik. And he happens to believe in me, as not just a singer. But an actress. And also as a marathon runner.

So I am quite thankful to be in on knowing him and watch his star rise.

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