Mar 27, 2015

People You Should Know... Jens Rasmussen

An UNDERLAND interview by Zack Calhoon, originally posted on his site

When did you know that you wanted to be an actor?
I had one of those magical Catholic high school choir teachers who loved Rod Stewart, believed in me, and gave me opportunities to grow. If it hadn't been for her - I shudder to think what might have become of this boy from Oshkosh with buck teeth and a Lego obsession.

Tell me about UNDERLAND. How do you feel rehearsals are going? What do you love most about the show?

UNDERLAND is wonderful. It's part Jerusalem, part Mean Girls, with a dash of Alice in Wonderland and Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. Rehearsals have been an absolute joy. Mia runs a beautiful room and brought together an amazing group of artists. Every designer and every actor has impressed me. I'd be excited to do any project with this group of artists. What I'm loving most about the show right now, is the moments we're building that bend time and space, in surprising, and I hope, compelling ways.

What kind of writing inspires you?

I adore writing that feels natural yet elevated and Ally's writing has this kind of muscular lyricism. My absolute favorite experiences in the theatre is when a piece moves me, and yet I can't verbalize why. Then I know the writer has peeled back a layer of my experience at the very edge of my understanding. It's exhilarating and maybe a little scary.

Who or what has been the biggest influence on your work as an actor thus far?

I think of actors like Michael Lague, who I looked up to when I was an apprentice over 20 years ago, or Michael Chekhov's writing, which I went back to over and over again, or brilliant actors like Mark Rylance, whose work constantly inspires me. But oddly enough, at this point. I think students have influenced my work the most. It's really true that teachers learn and students teach. Being in a studio with young actors has been a great facilitator to my own understanding of my work and process, as well as a tremendous source of inspiration.

What else are you working on right now?

In addition to UNDERLAND at 59E59, I'm in pre-production for THE LITTLE PRINCE which I'll be directing this summer in Georgia, and doing initial prep for A WINTER'S TALE which I'll be performing in at the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival.

May 2, 2014

Rasmussen... brave, talented, absolutely perfect

Sometimes I go to the theatre with the intention of sitting back and being entertained. Sometimes I don’t want to have to think too much and sometimes I just want to laugh a lot. Well, I laughed a few times during The KNOW Theatre’s brilliant production of THE TWENTIETH CENTURY WAY, but I certainly didn’t get to sit back during this frenetic 90 minutes of intensity.

I’m not even sure how to describe the show to you. The description I’d read doesn’t really tell the full story of what this play is. And I absolutely will not spoil it for you. But suffice it to say, what I thought I was going to see – a show about two out of work actors hired to trap gay men into arrests in the 1920s – is way understating it.

The friend who went with me – who is himself a brilliant actor – helped me understand the show in a different context. He said it was a show about acting. He’s right . . . but upon further reflection, I think that it is a show about truth. Raw, naked, intense, real, authentic truth and how that truth is experienced on stage and off by actors.

Jens Rasmussen and Michael McKeogh were absolutely perfect in their portrayals of multiple characters. There were jarring transitions but not once was I lost, thanks to the deft directoral hand of Kimberly Faith Hickman and the marvelous performances. These are brave actors, to be sure, and talented ones. I will be lining up to see them perform again.

The KNOW has another knock out hit with this show. If they can continue to produce MainStage masterpieces like PLUTO and THE TWENTIETH CENTURY WAY under the artistic leadership of Andrew Hungerford then they are going to be a force to be reckoned with. You should see this show – but don’t come unless you’re willing to work for it. It does pay off and in spades.

Apr 9, 2014

The 20th Century Way gets ★★★★ from League of Cincinnati Theatres

Panelists for the League of Cincinnati Theatres (LCT) have recognized Know Theatres The Twentieth Century Way with a 4 Star rating.
Long Beach, California, 1914. A scourge of homosexuality plagues the city.The Long Beach Police hire two actors to entrap gay men in the crime of “social vagrancy.” In an empty theatre, two actors meet while awaiting an audition. As tension between them mounts, they find themselves playing the story of a near forgotten piece of American history — a story from a time when people were prosecuted for daring to be themselves. But the truth of who these actors really are is slowly exposed as the story unzips.
Panelists called the play “a gem of a production” with a “fascinating, multilayered” script: “The Know Theater has another hit with The Twentieth Century Way.” Director Kimberly Faith Hickman was praised for “her fast-paced direction, for the balance between pathos and humor, and for making sure that the playwright’s thought-provoking points were emphasized.” Both lead actors in this two person play, Michael McKeough and Jens Rasmussen, were also commended: “A dazzling display of acting for both…McKeogh’s performance was clever, energetic, and at times created a level of empathy I haven’t felt in years at the theatre.”