Since far too often we only publicly say nice things about people when they are dead I’ve decided to randomly pick a Facebook friend every day and say something nice about them.
June 10, 2019
Today’s person: Jasmine Milan!
Last December Jon Tracy called me. It was a strange phone call.
“Hey, Michael... I know you’re in “Tuck Everlasting” right now, but was wondering if you’d be interesting in directing a show for Theatre First.”
I’m always interested in directing, but Tuck closed in two weeks. How could that be a conflict?
“The show starts rehearsal in two weeks.”
Things happen in theatre, issues arise, various shits hit various fans, and suddenly you need a director for a show that starts rehearsal in two weeks - and which has yet to be written. All you have is a concept and a title, “The Last Sermon of Sister Imani.”.
So of course I said yes. I’m not stupid.
And besides needing everything from the ground up we needed a cast for a very unique, only-a-concept-at-this-point, had-been-a-man-and-a-woman-but-after-reading-the-concept-I-thought-maybe-this-should-be-two-woman kinda show. The super-cool Dezi Solèy (who three months later I would be making out with and murdering in “Jazz” at MTC) was already cast, but who would be right for the other role - a spoken word hip-hop artists turned activist turned congresswoman who had to leap between politician present and struggling artist past in each scene?
Jasmine sent in a video audition, and I knew she was the one. I’d only worked with her once before, acting together in a show at New Conservatory, and she had the honest, bubbling likability to make any audience fall in love with her. But what I hadn’t seen but felt was in her was the stern, steely spine of a determined, inspiring, manipulative politician that Cleavon Smith was creating and recreating in his amazing, insightful script. And boy did she nail it.
Not only was she almost relentlessly smiling offstage she was ready to stretch her comfort zone to the breaking point in rehearsal and every night on stage, to be as vulnerable as a kitten succumbing to a steamroller or as strong as a planet of solid iron making its irresistible way through a solar system. The limitless, bouncy, artistic enthusiasm she brought to the young rapper challenging the world could be immediately and startlingly juxtaposed with the sequoia stillness of a serious politician fighting the deep, long struggle - and always with the clear idea that they were the same person. And when she stopped and listened to her scene partner she STOPPED AND LISTENED.
Her performance was so cool to watch, and she was just so much fun to work with I would cast her as the unshakable ruler of the universe, the lovable street urchin dreaming of shaking the ruler of the universe, or anyone in between anytime