I was born in Tacoma, Washington in the 80s and grew up in Bremerton and Yelm (If these names mean nothing, just know they are within an hour or so of Seattle). I went to the University of Montana in Missoula (BA in Vocal Performance) and was the youngest graduate in over 40 years! I moved to NYC in 2004 to sing, act, dance, and most recently, improvise.
In March of 2010, I was taking a commercial class and I asked the castingdirector, “What can I do to set myself apart? I feel like my type is a dime a dozen in this business!” She said, “Well, you’re kind of funny, take an improv class.” Wow, little did I know what I was getting myself into. I started studying at the PIT (People's Improv Theater) right away, got completely hooked, and just (as in, this month) finished my Level 4 class. Our final class show is May 8 at 8pm, come check it out!
I have also studied at the Magnet Theater with Mark Grenier and Armando Diaz, and my teachers at the PIT were Tom Ridgely, Joe Schiappa, Nate Starkey, Scott Eckert, and Larry Rosen & Noel Katz (musical improv). They have all been so awesome, giving me different points of view and a strong foundation for Long Form technique. I started playing with Tom Soter and Sunday Night Improv in March and have been having an absolute blast! I love that Tom provides the opportunity to play with real pros from all over town, stretching our short form and musical improv muscles.
The performers that have inspired me most throughout the years are Robin Williams, Kristin Chenoweth, Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, Liz Callaway and Audra MacDonald. I would like to follow in their footsteps, performing on both stage and screen. I am so eager for any and all improv opportunities and am currently forming an all-female musical improv group. In June, I will be playing “Lynette Fromme” in Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins here in Manhattan with Fifth Floor Productions, and I just finished the 2010-11 season with National Chorale at Avery Fisher Hall, singing Beethoven’s Ninth in March and Carmina Burana in April.
One of my best improv moments happened in April at SNI with Todd Cowdery, singing an impromptu duet titled “I Love You Because You’re Mean.” My worst improv moment was last fall when I went to tag someone out in a scene and wasn’t clear enough, and ended up as the most awkward walk-on ever. However, I use the terms "best" and "worst" very loosely because every moment onstage is a learning experience and part of the journey to hone my craft and become a better improvisor. My favorite part about improvising is that you are completely unlimited and uncensored, and just like real life, once a moment occurs, it never happens again.
SEE JESSANN SMITH ON MAY 22 AT SUNDAY NIGHT IMPROV, 236 W. 78th STREET at 7 P.M.!