A Partial Who's Who at MoMFest 2000
Jessica HedrickJessica Hedrick likes to talk, and she's good at it. The actress, writer, and director grew up in an academic family in Connecticut, went to college in Indiana, spent three aimless years in Seattle and four "not so aimless" years in Austin. "Not so aimless" is an understatement. For FronteraFest 1998, Hedrick wrote, directed, and starred in "Recovered Me: A Pink Collar Manifesto," a 20-minute one-woman show about her experiences working in the Student Affairs office at the UT Law School which was named one of the Best of the Fest. In 1999, she did a spoof of Dr. Laura. In her time so far in Austin, Hedrick has worked with, among many others, Ron Berry (with whom she went to college), Refraction Arts, and Public Domain.
This summer in The Butcher's Daughter, Hedrick played the male mayor of a small village for the second time in her career. Playing a man is fun, she says, but the male-politician typecast is getting old, and she's growing out her hair "as a hint." Back in her Earlham College days, Hedrick faced an even more troublesome casting situation. She was turned down for a part in A Midsummer Night's Dream because they needed someone ethereal and she had too much of a "peasant image." As if to prove them wrong, Hedrick went on to fail horseback riding (it's a Quaker school), leaving her one gym credit short of her B.A.
Last winter, Hedrick did a show with Deanna Shoemaker called HOTBOX! (A Hetero Drag Show), and it was a rare combination of feminist theory and humor. "Humor is a necessary weapon in almost any performance," says Hedrick. "There are places where I guess it just shouldn't exist, but I find it hard to imagine where they would be ... It's such a light way of skewering so many enormous balloons that would take hours if you were going to take it seriously."
Hedrick sees the importance of anger and outrage in female performance, but from a pragmatic standpoint, she says, "The angry-woman-as-performer is very easy for critics and audiences to deride and completely eliminate from the stage." By contrast, "Anger and a sense of perspective and humor is a little scarier, and harder to write off." While Hedrick sees the seduction of abstract academic feminism, she says its isolationist tendency can render it "kinda jack-offy."
Having gone through an eating disorder in college and a goddess-worshipping phase in her early 20s, Hedrick feels like she has a better sense of the female psyche's complexity. Weary of "reductive gender shit," Hedrick says it's important to remember that sugar and spice, etc. is a myth. Female evil "is not always just dark magic in a potpourri bowl."
Hedrick got her start in college and high school doing children's theatre, something to which she's hoping to return at some point. Of late, though, her goal has been to figure out a way to nimbly, humanely, and non-defensively point out gender inequalities, such as why women get less encouragement than men to have vapid sex partners. She does know enough not to stage manage anymore, having set a curtain on fire while working backstage on a Seattle production of King Lear.
For this year's MoMFest, Hedrick directed four monologues written by her neighbor and weekday wine-drinking compatriot Cyndi Williams. Directing other people's work is nerve-racking for Hedrick, "especially directing a friend's work," but Hedrick likes the different freedoms and restraints that go along with both directing and performing. Hedrick will also be appearing in the upcoming show Bingo as a ragamuffin sometime-whore.
Four Monologues by Cyndi Williams were performed on Saturday, Sept. 23, and Monday, Sept. 25, at the John Henry Faulk Living Theatre. Bingo runs Nov. 2-25 at The Hideout