By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
When Mesquite High School drama teacher Jennifer Green, 24, showed up at her first professional theater audition in October, her goal was simply a "call-back'' for WaterTower Theatre's production of the musical The Spitfire Grill (onstage through February 15). Instead, she landed the starring role of troubled Percy Talbott, who realizes her dreams as a cook in a rural diner. Director James Lemons recalls Green's arrival on the last day of auditions. "I had two or three well-known actresses in town vying heavily for the role,'' Lemons says. "Then when Jennifer sang, we realized she had a great voice. She was what I was looking for--young, pretty, but not an off-putting brand of pretty. When she started reading with other actors, we all sat forward in our chairs. She had chemistry with everyone. She just walked in off the street. That's how it happened.''
Jennifer, is that how it happened?
Yes, it was so bizarre. I had been looking for a way to plug into the Dallas acting scene, but my first year of teaching at Mesquite High was way too busy to do that. I direct four or five shows a year there and design all the lights. A friend told me about the audition for Spitfire, and I was two seconds away from staying home and not going. But my husband, Tommy [also a teacher], encouraged me. I expected my first role in Dallas to be Chorus Girl No. 12.
So two years out of Abilene Christian University, you're in a starring role at one of the area's biggest theaters. Anybody in the cast threatened by the "new kid"?
I had no idea what to expect. In the past, I've dealt with my fair share of theater people who have been tacky to me. This cast has been so gracious and warm. I immediately felt at home with them.
Between the time you were cast and when the show went into rehearsals in January, how did you prepare to play Percy, who's a pretty intense young woman?
I did journaling as Percy to get in her head. I did collage work to help me visually. Once I did her backstory, I broke down the script, looking at it moment by moment. I carried a big journal around with me at rehearsals.
Wow, you're the process princess.
In order to take the audience with me, I have to do that work. That's one of the parts of acting I love. You're turning yourself into an entirely different person.
In this case, a person who lives in flannels and overalls.
Her baggy clothes are such a part of her. I feel like no one knows I have a waist.
What do your high-schoolers think of your overnight success?
I want students to know that you can do whatever you set your mind to do. It's important that they see how all of the stuff I teach pays off. I am doing what I am telling them to do.
Your voice has a strong country twang. Is that you or the character?
I've never sung country. My voice is doing things now it's never done.
Your favorite moment of Spitfire Grill?
The song "Shine.'' It's so cathartic. It's Percy's first step toward healing. I love telling her story. It's an important story, especially in a big city. Everybody is really searching for home, a connection with other people. Who can't relate to that?
When TV News Guys Try To Write
Full Frontal, like you, watches local television news for three reasons: weather, sports and to receive the telepathic messages of undying and unconditional love Heather Hays sends to Full Frontal during each broadcast. So we were surprised to discover on January 13 that there is at least one local TV anchor-reporter who has aspirations to be more than a handsome talking head. We're speaking of WFAA-Channel 8's Brad Hawkins--or, as we like to call him, Scott Sams with talent.
That night, Hawkins was delivering a report about the Dallas City Council looking into increasing parking meter rates in the West End and other downtown hotspots--a bad idea, Hawkins suggested, given the fact Fort Worth nightlife thrives without meters, much less the high prices Dallas is looking into. The story wasn't particularly thrilling, but Full Frontal bolted out of bed when Hawkins referred to parking meters as "asphalt rent," which we found to be a particularly poetic turn of phrase--especially for a TV guy. So Full Frontal wondered, was Hawkins borrowing a phrase often used in this context, or was this, in fact, an example of a TV news guy actually trying to do something more than recycle stale clichés?
A Google search, using the phrase "asphalt rent," came up with a single successful hit--for Hawkins' story, archived on the wfaa.com Web site. (One site, www.modernpulp.com, offered this line from a short story--"A squeal of rubber on asphalt rent the night"--but we have no idea what that means.) Other search engines returned similar results. Full Frontal then combed the Lexis-Nexis database for the phrase and came up similarly empty-handed. We then typed the phrase into Amazon.com's search engine, which scours every in-print book for whatever it is you just typed in, and, again, bupkus.