This is Part Two in a series of interviews with the very talented group of five young actors in the cast of Arena Stage’s production of The Music Man. Today – meet Jamie Goodson.
Joel: You are 13 years old and have been acting, dancing and singing and playing the piano since you were four. You have quite a resume appearing in Ragtime at The Kennedy Center and in A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre. Who did you play in these productions, and what did these experiences teach you about being an actor?
Jamie: In Ragtime, I understudied the role of the Little Girl. I was only ten, and although I had done school and camp shows, this was my first professional experience. I was treated like a professional and expected to act like a professional, and I was extremely intimidated the first few weeks of rehearsal. I learned a lot, though, from watching all the gifted performers in that show, and when I finally got to perform on stage opposite Mano Felciano as Tateh – with dozens of my family members and friends watching – I had the best experience of my life..
That production opened my eyes to the magic of theater and confirmed that I want to be an actress when I grow up. In A Christmas Carol, I played the oldest Cratchit kid, Martha Cratchit. By the time I did that show, I was much more experienced and confident about acting, and had a lot of fun with the role. Again, I was surrounded by wonderful performers from whom I learned a lot about acting and the hard work and dedication it takes to be in this business.
Why did you want to play Gracie Shinn in The Music Man?
I wanted to play Gracie Shinn for several reasons. The most important was that after seeing Oklahoma! at Arena Stage last year, I fell in love with the Fichandler Stage and really wanted the chance to perform on it. I have seen a lot of shows in DC and on Broadway and the Fichandler is my favorite theater of all because it allows for such an intimate and creative theatrical experience. I especially love how close the actors are to the audience. Second, I had heard stories about how talented a director Molly Smith is and I really wanted to work with her – stories which are completely true! Third, I had seen the show the Music Man when the Washington Savoyards did it a few years ago and I simply love the music and exuberance of the show.
Are you like Gracie in any way and how are you different than her?
I portray Gracie Shinn as a somewhat bratty, outspoken younger sister to Zaneeta. Gracie loves to be in the spotlight and she’ll do whatever it takes to be the center the attention, even if it means doing some negative things. I am similar to Gracie in that I also love to be in the spotlight, but I like to think I am a nicer person, especially to my two older sisters!
What did you sing at your audition and where were you when you found out that you had been offered the role of Gracie? What was your reaction?
I sang “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid at my initial audition, and then “Goodnight My Someone” at the callback the next day. The casting director at Arena called my Mom at home about four days later, and I found out when I got home from school. I literally jumped for joy!!
How you would describe your parents in the show – The Shinns? Do your own real parents possess some of the Shinns’ qualities of parenting?
I would describe my parents in the show both as being very uptight and strict, especially my father. Mr. Shinn is very protective of his daughters and won’t let them do a lot of things. Mrs. Shinn is actually more lenient and fun-loving, but she tries to appear stern when she is around Mr. Shinn (who I think she is a little afraid of). Both the Shinn parents, however, love their daughters very much. Like the Shinns, my real parents also fiercely love their (five!) children. But they are much less strict and more likely to let my four siblings and I try new things. They also rarely ever judge me.
What advice did Director Molly Smith give you about playing Gracie that has helped you shape your performance?
She advised me to think really hard about the background of my character, and imagine important events in the past that have shaped Gracie’s personality. This advice helped me to portray a more full-bodied character to the audience.
Are there any roles that you haven’t played yet that you are longing to play?
One of the roles I really want to play is Patrice, the friend of the male lead in the musical 13. There are so few musicals that have roles for teenagers, and 13 is uniquely comprised of all teenagers. Also, I absolutely love the music, which was composed by the fantastic Jason Robert Brown (who attended my performing arts camp in New York for many years when he was young). Unfortunately, I have not heard of any professional or amateur theaters in the DC area that have plans to do the show! Another role I would love to perform is one of the daughters in Fiddler on the Roof. When I am older, I would love to play Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. I can do a mean British accent!
Why should theatergoers come and see The Music Man?
Theatergoers should come to The Music Man because it is a very fun and entertaining show. Although the musical is pretty old, it is just as relevant and interesting today as it was 50 years ago. It’s also a great experience for families. It has something for everything – young kids, a barbershop quartet, and romance. Also, the singing, dancing, and orchestra are all phenomenal!
JAMIE GOODSON (Gracie Shinn) is a 13-year-old D.C. native who has been acting, singing, dancing and playing the piano since age 5. Her local credits include Ragtime at the Kennedy Center, A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre and 101 Dalmatians at Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre. The past four summers, Jamie attended French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts in Hancock, N.Y., where she performed such roles as Clio/Kira in Xanadu, Mary in The Secret Garden, Pocahontas in Pocahontas and Nala in The Lion King. Jamie attends Cooper Middle School in McLean, Va., where she regularly performs the national anthem at local sports events.
The Music Man plays through July 22, 2012, in the Fichlander Theatre at Arena Stage at The Mead Center for American Theater -1101 Sixth Street, SW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (202) 488-330 , or order them online.
Read ‘The Music Man Kids’: Part One: Meet Mia Alessandra Goodman.