Reboot Theatre, known best for their all female 1776, is about to open a new musical, and although their Artistic Director Jasmine Joshua has been a familiar face in Seattle for a while, we wanted a sit-down to talk to her about herself, her company, and newest project.
Ramble on a bit for us to get to know you a bit.
Rambling is my middle name! I come from a family of actors–Sharon Gabet is an Emmy Award-nominated soap actress with a cult following online, my father is a working actor, probably best known for his role in Dances with Wolves and Spiderman (some might remember him from the short-lived musical cop TV show Cop Rock. Yes, that’s my dad singing and it’s the best). He’s one of those actors where everyone sees him and goes, “Oh yeah! That guy!” They are both pretty supportive of me in my career, although they also wanted me to get a useful degree. So I majored in Creative Writing. Ha!
So yes, I went to college, majored in Creative Writing, and then moved to LA so I could become the next Meryl Streep (which obviously worked out great). While in LA, I studied with the Groundlings and also at the Larry Moss Studio.
When I first got to Seattle, I kept thinking, “What the hell am I going to do up here?” I loved that I was good at PR, but I didn’t love PR. I did some freelance editing and writing for a while, but the more Seattle theatre I saw, the more I fell in love. And I knew that’s what I wanted to do and that nothing else would fulfill me. So I started auditioning, I’ve been very lucky to be a part of some incredible productions at wonderful companies like Intiman, Book-It, STAGEright, Bainbridge Performing Arts, Twelfth Night Productions, Annex, and others. This year I dipped my toe into directing, and, of course, I started my own theatre company.
What brought about Reboot Theatre and who is your staff for the company?
Two years ago, I found out I was pregnant with twins and I knew I wasn’t going to be cast in anything for awhile. I decided to work on a project of my own, something I’d wanted to do since I saw the movie in the sixth grade–an all-female 1776. It honestly started as a read-through and sing-a-long in my living room as, well, as they say, the rest is history. I’m sort of a weird type–I’m a young female character actor. Most of the parts in my wheelhouse are for women in their 40s or older. So what am I supposed to do until then? Alternatively, I have friends who are cast as ingenues now and when they age out, they’ll be cast as ingenues’ moms. Boring! Wouldn’t it be great if there was a theatre company that focused on flipping the script for every show, not just one production every other season? I wanted to build a company that opened more opportunities for audiences and artists to explore what they thought they had already seen before.
In terms of staff, we are still in the process of defining ourselves–we are a bit of a collective right now. The main associate producers (as we’re calling them) are Rebecca Lane, Jeannette LeGault, Harry Turpin, and Angela Snyder. We also have a company of about 25 members who are Reboot alumni who have expressed interest in helping the company and are our social ambassadors and volunteer pool.
What is and what is the history of Fly By Night?
Fly By Night is this whimsical, beautiful musical about love, death, fate, and destiny. It’s written by Kim Rosenstock (99 Ways to Fuck a Swan, Tigers Be Still), Will Connolly (from the OBC of Once), and Michael Mitnick (Ed Downloaded)–basically, three young up-and-coming writers who all knew each other in college and decided to write a musical. The play won the Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award and also had a successful run Off-Broadway at Playwright Horizons where it was nominated for a couple of Drama Desk Awards. It’s stunning. I did PR for the world premiere in Palo Alto in 2011 and I honestly have not stopped thinking about it. The show is fairly new and already has a reputation for audience members wanting to go two or three times to see it. It just had a run at the Broadway Rose Theatre in Oregon and pretty much blew everyone’s socks off.
The storyline is sort of hard to explain, but the way it unfolds is what makes this show so magical. You are lead backward and forward through time by this shape-shifting narrator, played brilliantly by Mandy Rose Nichols. The three main characters are sisters Daphne and Miriam, and Harold, this hapless sandwich maker whose mother just passed away. So we get these criss-crossing storylines about Harold’s father trying to reconnect with his son and Daphne trying to make it big in the Big Apple and getting caught up with his wacky playwright who claims her as his muse, and Miriam who stumbles upon a fortune-teller who gives her some uplifting, but harrowing news. It’s beautifully complex and all comes together in a completely bewitching way. And the music is awesome. Fly By Night is one of those musicals where you’re going to buy the cast recording afterward.
Why this show now?
1776 was so ambitious and flashy and big. We wanted to show that the Reboot concept can work with any show. One of our tenets is that we want to test interpretations of plays and musicals with boldness, but also with subtlety. Not every show has to be done in big broad strokes. Does changing one part do the trick? In Fly By Night‘s case, we cast three typically male roles with female actors. I love the idea that Seattle’s first look at this great show will be a reboot, so I pitched Fly By Night to the other producers and after one listen to the cast recording, they were hooked.
Fly By Night is really way less known than 1776. Why will people want to/need to see this?
1776 came at a really auspicious time–Hamilton was just becoming popular and politically things were heating up in this country. I guess both of those things are still true! Fly By Night is a stirring piece and it’s one of those shows that truly takes you away, but isn’t mindless fluff. It’s escapism with substance. I think in the middle of this emotionally exhausting election year, this show is just the remedy we need. Additionally, this show’s music is absolutely perfect for Seattle’s indie rock sensibilities.
You have young children. Is it harder prioritizing your theatre time as a result?
Honestly the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in so many shows is more of a juggling act than my kids! It’s a great problem to have. Networking is definitely harder. For the few nights that I’m not on stage or in a rehearsal, I want to be home with my husband and children so I don’t go out to schmooze and see shows as much as I used to or even want to! It is a really hard balance to strike, but the girls won’t be babies forever and hopefully someday they’ll be my theatre and, eventually, drinking buddies! Or they’ll, you know, have a life and will be glad I’m not hanging around the house belting showtunes in front of their friends.
Are you raising kids who may be budding actors?
I would love for my girls to be involved in theatre in some way, even if only as patrons! Instilling a love for the arts would be one of the greater gifts I could give them as a parent.
But also, if they can’t tap dance by three, they’re out of the family.
Do you have a season of shows planned?
We are waiting for permission to reboot a show that will run in May at the Slate, but unfortunately I have to keep mum until I get permission! That has been the biggest challenge thus far is getting licensing houses to allow us to use nontraditional casting. It’s sort of surprising. That being said, I’m hopeful and encouraged by the global trend in alternative casting–Harry Potter and the Cursed Child cast a non-white actor to play Hermione, one of the most beloved characters in literature. Not to mention Hamilton! So hopefully these trends will loosen up the restrictions on certain plays and will also encourage playwrights to allow their art to be experimented with. If nothing else, there is a treasure trove of plays in the public domain that we have yet to plunder.
Reboot Theatre Company follows its inaugural production, the award-winning all-female 1776, with the Seattle premiere of the off-Broadway musical Fly By Night. In this compelling indie rock-fable, set during the months leading up to New York’s 1965 blackout, two sisters and a hapless sandwich maker is propelled by fate and time to make a life-changing choice, proving that it sometimes takes a blackout to see the light. Harry Turpin directs with music direction by Joel Kurzynski. Tickets ($15-$20) are available at reboottheatre.org.