Interview: Jezza Donovan

Jezza is a performer, producer and writer, and will be bringing ‘The View from Queer’ to Camden People’s Theatre (CPT) as part of LGBTQ Arts’ curated evenings at the Come As You Are festival.  We grabbed them for a quick chat this afternoon to find out about their work, growing up queer and what they’ll be bringing to the CPT on the 13th and 20th September.

AT:  Tell us a little about you and how you came to work in theatre…

JD: I was always singing and dancing and performing as a child, I think it was in my blood in someway.  I was quite a nervous child, but when I was performing I was okay.  I always remember my mum telling me that I had to change nurseries because I didn’t like my first one, her friend recommended that I went to her friend Sheila’s, so I did and I got on very well with everyone.  But I was still very nervous, so Auntie Sheila would stand at the door in the morning holding my art bib (which was bright red), and she used to say ‘Morning Jeremy you can wear this and you can be Superman’, so I did, for the first half hour, and then I’d chill out a bit and just be me. I think some of it was my queerness, I was very different to other children, and of course at that age you don’t have a filter – you just be you. I think a lot of people rejected me, thinking I was a strange child.

Years later, I had a moment when I was doing a school play, I hadn’t been called for rehearsal so was told I could watch or go to the library.  I was on my way to the library when I suddenly turned to go to the rehearsal, there was this invisible draw back to the place where theatre was being made.  And I always had a connection with it. Being cast in things at school was an uphill struggle, but I persevered, and I found myself studying theatre and drama at university. I always wanted to create and tell stories.

After university I toured doing children’s musicals, panto and comedy and I found I had a bit of a knack for it.  And I loved making people laugh. I then worked in theatre and education, and ten years ago that was a really good way of supporting yourself.  I loved that work, being creative and sharing it with people, ensuring as many people benefitted from it as possible.  Following that I went back and trained at the Actors Company where I did a year of formal training; we were a company aged between 22 and 70 years old, which was an amazing group of people.

AT: And you produce sometimes too – how did you come to do that?

JD: In 2012 I came to producing, kind of by accident, when some friends of mine in a theatre company were putting a show on at The Bridewell Theatre, and a lady called Liz, who was an actor in the show, said I was good at organising and asked if I could help her out.  Then she set up her own theatre company and asked me to help, when got married two years ago and moved away, she said to me ‘you can do this’ – so I took on producing for that company by myself.

AT: And what do you enjoy most about theatre?

JD: I enjoy comedy, I enjoy making people laugh and giving them a really good experience.  And treating people fairly – it’s a rough industry for anyone. I work profit share a lot of the time, but ensuring that the work we do is as egalitarian as it can be.

In recent years I’ve worked a lot in the LGBTQ+ realm, doing a lot of stuff with Diversity Role Models and Gendered Intelligence in schools and with businesses, but I realise how this work has influenced my creativity; I need to put more of my energy in to telling queer stories in theatre.  And then this opportunity came along to work with LGBTQ Arts at CAYA, as well as having just been accepted on to the Soho Theatre Writers Lab – so it feels as though things are starting to happen, and I’m being more involved with queer people in the arts. And to also keep throwing ladders where I can, to make sure other people get those opportunities as well.

AT: And what are you bringing to The Come As You Are Festival?

JD: I am bringing a point of view, a story.  And I’ve wrestled with it, thinking ‘Am I interesting enough to tell my own story?’ But I thought, if someone else said that to me, I’d say of course you are! So I’m trying to give myself that encouragement, to tell a story that people will be entertained by and learn from. And the art of performing on your own, because I enjoy doing it: monologues, stand-up – staring with myself really.  But I want to bring an honesty, a frankness and humour to being queer, non-binary, that will be useful as much as it is entertaining.

BOOK NOW to see Jezza perform ‘The View From Queer’ as part of Camden People’s Theatre’s ‘Come As You Are’ Festival on the 13th and 20th September at 9pm.

Follow: @jeremydonovan82 on Twitter and @LGBTQArts for more updates.




Raising Our Voices from LGBTQ Arts is an Arts Council England Funded Scheme.

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