It’s me, Jaclyn June Johnson. I’m the newest team member here at the Commonweal! After living in Wisconsin for the better part of a decade, it’s lovely to again call my native state home. Returning to the state to join the Commonweal fills me with enthusiasm and inspiration. I’ve long been familiar with this company and its legacy of community-mindedness and artistic excellence.
Since my graduation from Cornell College in 2006, I have galvanized my theatre skills both artistically and administratively. I am an Actor, Director, Costume Designer, and Playwright. Collaboration and empathy are at the core of my artistic identity. They also happen to be the reason I find theatre compelling for audience and company, alike. Theatre is the ultimate collaborative art-form, and can be a transcendent exercise in empathy.
After several years as a freelancer, In 2010 I joined St. Croix Festival Theatre’s staff as the Associate Artistic Director. Festival Theatre utilizes a similar Artist/Administrator model. Later I became the Artistic Director. After a planned exit in 2015, I returned the following year as the Co-Artistic Director and helped Festival Theatre to restructure and restrategize as it acquainted itself with a new facility and its new organizational needs. Having worked in theatres all over the country – from Creede Repertory, to Riverside Theatre, to National Theatre for Children – I’ve long admired the Artist/Administer model. From afar, Commonweal has inspired me and countless other multi-talented theatre workers.
In 2020, you will find me in a half-time position in the Commonweal Resident Ensemble as I complete a few other artistic responsibilities, and ensure I see my husband (and our three beautiful cats) whose work has him tethered in Wisconsin (my husband’s work, not the cats’). Towards the end of the 2020 season, I will transition into a more full-time presence in Lanesboro as I take on the role of Development Manager.
This year brings a lot of excitement. I’m performing in two dream roles at St. Croix Festival Theatre – The Witch in Into the Woods, and Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible – but it is this dream Artist/Administrator position at Commonweal that is thrilling me the most about my year. Here’s to the intersection of community and artistic excellence, collaboration and empathy!
Thanks for reading, friendly reader! I can’t wait to meet you in person at the Commonweal. ~Jackie (Jaclyn June Johnson)
Keep an eye out for Jaclyn this season at the Commonweal. Do you have your Season Passes yet? They’re going fast so be sure to order yours online, or give us a call at 800-657-7025!
There was a moment last fall when I was having dinner with Elizabeth Dunn and she asked who I thought could direct the apprentice capstone project? I cautiously raised my hand. It had been seven years since I directed a full-length play, and I realized I was craving the process. I have tried to support our apprentices’ capstone in past seasons in any way I could, and this seemed like the perfect chance to throw my hat into the ring to direct again.
When I read the play I was hooked. This year’s apprentice class (Caroline Hawthorne, Matthew Donahue, Alicia Ehleringer, and Jodi Rushing) has chosen The Fox by Allan Miller, based on the novella by D.H. Lawrence. The play is set in 1918 on a farm near Berkshire, England. The farm is run by two young women named Jillian and Nellie. The two decided to leave the town because of the gossip and the influenza epidemic. Their main source of income is their hens, but the hens have ceased to lay eggs because a fox continually raids the chicken coop. On a windy November night, a young solider named Henry unexpectedly arrives at their doorstep, having just returned home from the war. He seeks refuge—but what does he really want?
That is all I will venture to say about the plot. The Fox is simultaneously beautifully poetic and strikingly realistic. The characters are colorful and complex. So much of what is expressed is unsaid. The play bounces from dry sardonic wit to terrifying thriller. It is a shocking reminder that while the story is fiction, these characters represent reality. Humanity is brought to light in the shadows of this dilapidated farmhouse.
Although the play is set during the twilight of World War I, the issues it presents are timeless: pandemics, war, sexuality, gender roles, toxic masculinity, gaslighting, social norms, etc. I could go on and on about the script and the novella, but I’ll just say you’ll have to see it for yourselves!
I am proud of our apprentice class for their selection and who they are as artists. I am honored to be on this journey with them, we are having a blast! Their hard work in rehearsals and behind the scenes will bring this incredibly human story to life. Come visit the past to gain clarity on the present at the Commonweal this March.
Don’t miss Brandt’s directorial debut with the Commonweal, and the hard work of all of our wonderful apprentices! Get your tickets for The Fox, opening March 13th —> Performance Calendar
My husband, William, and I caught the Wealhouse production of An Iliad, featuring Ben Gorman last summer. Admittedly, I would have skipped a one-man show about an ancient war. It didn’t really capture my interest, but we know that anything Commonweal is going to be good. So we headed on in for an evening performance, wholly unprepared for the epic journey upon which Ben was about to take us.
The show begins with a storyteller entering and slowly recounting scenes from the war—scenes most of us remember from having read The Iliad in school, or seeing Brad Pitt play a sexy Achilles in the movie Troy. The stories were vaguely familiar to me; but the more Ben told them, the more they came flooding back as he embodied the colorful characters.
It doesn’t seem like a history lesson, though; the battles come to life. As audience members we are transported to the battlefield; plopped down into the bloody, sweaty, conflict. I had never felt this narrative to be more real. Who is this storyteller? I wondered. He speaks in a modern, relevant voice yet he can recount every little detail of the Trojan war as if it were yesterday. Is he an immortal? And it exacts such an emotional toll on him! Why does he tell it? What is it telling us about the nature of war itself? What am I supposed to take from this?
I continued to ask myself that question throughout the play: “What am I supposed to take from this?” Many theatrical performances give us food for thought or a dose of entertainment. I guess I was anticipating that when I saw An Iliad, but I got so much more. It spins the yarn of the story in such a way that I felt impossibly tied up in it. This demands so much of us! How should we respond? William and I are still asking that question.
Caroline Gordon once wrote: “We do not judge great art. It judges us.” This Wealhouse production of An Iliad catapults itself into the category of great art in that it does just that. Yes, it is a technically amazing performance by a brilliant actor but in the end, that’s not what matters. It is how deeply it impacts us. We don’t think anyone should miss this performance for any reason.
Experience it for yourself! An Iliad returns for one show only this Sunday, at 1:30pm. Get your tickets for today! —> Performance Calendar