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Debut of the Month: Meet Ezra Menas of JAGGED LITTLE PILL!

Ezra tells us all about their journey from the University of Oklahoma to Broadway

Debut of the Month: Meet Ezra Menas of JAGGED LITTLE PILL! On December 5, 2019, Broadway officially got a little bit more ironic, when Jagged Little Pill opened at the Broadhurst Theatre. Based on the beloved Alanis Morisette album of the same name, the arrival of Jagged Little Pill also marked the debuts of nine young performers. One of them was Ezra Menas.

A native of Witchita, Kanas, Menas attended the University of Oklahoma's Weitzenhoffer School of Musical Theatre before arriving in New York City. 2019 was an epic year for Menas, as it marked not only their Broadway debut, but first big screen experience. Filming recently wrapped for Steven Spielberg's West Side Story remake, in which Menas will play Anybodys.

In this very special edition of BroadwayWorld's Debut of the Month (featuring photography by Jennifer Broski), Ezra tells us all about their journey from the University of Oklahoma to Broadway!


Firstly, congrats on making your Broadway debut! What have the past three months been like?

Oh my gosh. It's been a whirlwind. We're still in rehearsals every Thursday and Friday, sometimes Tuesday. It's been a lot more than I expected it would be, honestly. This is my first go-around but it's a new show, so it always has added elements. But we've had pop-up performances on the GMA and Seth Myers and all that stuff, so that's been really cool. We're definitely tired, but we're loving it.

What was your audition process like?

I actually worked with the associate director, funnily enough- it might be four years ago now- on a show at NYMT. She was directing a project. It was actually the first audition that I had gone to since I realized I was trans, and I was like, "Oh, my God, I have to go to this audition." And she ended up being the director. Fast forward two years and she calls me and is like, "Hey, I think you'd be great for this project. We're working on this new Alanis Morissette show. Can you send over something Alanis Morissette?" I'm like, "Abso-freaking-lutely, I love Alanis Morissette." That's all my dad played me from the time I was three.

I sent in some videos first-off to her and then that pulled me into the dance call and that's when I got the first workshop. It was lengthy. We're doing a workshop that's only three weeks. And then who knows what's going to happen? You never are promised after a first workshop if you're going to stay on for any other collaborations. But thankfully, I came back and came back again for the rehearsal process for the Cambridge run.

And now you're here!

Now I'm here, yes!

Debut of the Month: Meet Ezra Menas of JAGGED LITTLE PILL!

Debut of the Month: Meet Ezra Menas of JAGGED LITTLE PILL!

What's it been like working with your company? I feel like you guys are the most bad ass group of performers on Broadway right now.

I share that same sentiment because these people... they've seen my absolute highs and absolute lows. And it's just been so special and actually very rare that a company has been able to perform for almost three years now together on a piece that's evolving and changing and growing and adapting. I consider them like my family. They are honestly the best people. I've been able to share vulnerability with them, and we've obviously created this piece of art... our lives-have enriched the piece. We've seen each other's vulnerabilities and we've been there to hold space for each other. It's just like a really special group of people. There's nobody I would not hang out with on the outside. And we do. So, it is pretty bad ass, I would say.

I imagine that because of the the subject matter and tone, and messaging of the show, you get a lot of people at the stage door who tell you how impacted they are by it. What has that response been like that you've experienced so far?

Gosh. I actually honestly get Instagram DMs a lot of the time from kids as young as 13. They've reached out and been like, "I'm binary. I'm trans. Either I'm not out to my family. I'm positive, but I saw this show." Or "I'm out, and I'm in musical theatre but I didn't ever feel like I could perform because of my identity. And now I feel so connected seeing you on stage."

That's only one aspect of the show- my personal affect. But everybody comes, like you're saying, to the stage door and has some kind of connection. Because we have so many things going on in our show because we have so many things going on in our world. Nothing happens in a vacuum. It's all intersecting and it's been so beautiful to see that reflected in the people at the stage door.

Debut of the Month: Meet Ezra Menas of JAGGED LITTLE PILL! Debut of the Month: Meet Ezra Menas of JAGGED LITTLE PILL!

What is it about Alanis' music that you think really resonates with people?

The fact that it's so honest and raw, and it was for that time. She was being criticized pretty heavily at that time for being so "brash," which is hilarious. I'm like, "You're just saying that because she's a woman!" Extremely senseless. But yes, I think it's just so honest and raw. People connect to the simplicity of those emotions because everyone experiences what she's singing about. And you can't deny that that will transcend time because we're human. She's talking about the human experience, and that is always applicable, I feel. Also, her art was very political. It's sad but true that back then it resonated and now maybe even more-maybe not more, but just in a different way, it still resonates.

Do you have a personal favorite moment in the show, either that you're a part of or that you get to witness every night?

Yes. I don't know if you recognize the kind of Avatars that happen throughout. Like MJ, the mom, has the Avatar, that's her addiction process. And Ebony [Williams] is Frankie's Avatar and she's the angry voice of the woman who dances super hard all the time, basically. And I am Jo's Avatar. I'm not a physical being. We're all like in subliminal space down the line, like lifetimes away.

Anyway, I think in "Hand In My Pocket," one of my favorite moments is when, right after she sings, "...giving a peace sign," we do this moment choreographically where we turn around and it's like a still moment. It's very quiet. And she's having a bit of introspection with Frankie, and she says, "I'm free but I'm focused. And I'm green but I'm wise." And on "green" we turn around and we just stand and look at her.

I can feel in that moment all of my personal experiences that I feel like I would share with Jo and with Jo's life and Jo's past, flashing before my eyes. The good and the bad. Like my experience with my identity- being gay, being trans, and all of those moments flooding in that stillness. That's really cool. And just Frankie and Jo being able to kiss on stage- that being an amazing thing.

Debut of the Month: Meet Ezra Menas of JAGGED LITTLE PILL!

Besides everything that's going on at the Broadhurst, I know that you've wrapped the West Side Story movie. What was that whole experience like?

Oh, God. It feels like my heart's going to burst out of my chest every time someone asks me that. It's so hard to put into words, but it was honestly one of the coolest and humbling and incredible experiences of my life. Steven Spielberg... and I tell this to everybody that I meet... he may be my favorite man on the planet. He's just so humble and kind. And you're like, "Wow!" You hope the people at the top who get where they are get there because they're amazing, compassionate, and passionate people. And that is Steven Spielberg. He's just the kindest man.

I had never done a film before. I was learning and throwing myself in there and was like, "All right, I'm just doing this. Hopefully that's enough. That's what I feel, so let's do it." And I've never had a director that's more trusting of his actors, which his scary. Because then you're like, "Wait, do I trust myself to make this choice?" But he is very hands-off and will give these gems of direction, but never too much. He really just trusted us to bring what we had to the character and let that shine on camera. I could go on and on and on, there's just so many aspects of the production; I'm just floored.

I'm sure.

The talent that I was sharing the stage with was just unbelievable.

Debut of the Month: Meet Ezra Menas of JAGGED LITTLE PILL! Are you at a point now that the anticipation of actually seeing it is killing you?

I'm really so excited to see it. It's not killing me at this point, probably because I'm so busy, which is kind of great. I'm like, "Great." Because summer's going to be here in the flash.

Rewinding just a little bit, you are from the Midwest, right?

I am. Kansas.

What was it like growing up there? Were there lots of creative outlets for you to express yourself?

There were, yes. I was on dance team. I was involved in the drama program. My high school is actually not a performing arts high school, but it's amazing-the productions that we put on and the talent that comes through our school. There are so many folks from my high school who have gone on to do things. My best friend from high school has been on "The Voice," has been on "American Idol."

Oh, wow!

Wichita is like this special little gem. Yes, it's very sweet. And I was always busy doing some kind of performance. Although, funnily enough, I was very reluctant in the beginning stages. My mom always wanted to push me to do musical theatre and I was like, "No, I don't want to sing!" And now it's my career. [Laughs]

At what point did you decide that you wanted to do this and do it for a living?

I saw Hairspray on Broadway. My family and I took a trip over Thanksgiving when I was a junior in high school. And that's when I was like, "Whoa, these people look like they're having so much fun. And this is so freakin' cool." And it wasn't my first Broadway show. It's funny that just Hairspray for some reason dropped in. I was like, "I want to do this. I want to do that for my job-for my life."

What drew you specifically to University of Oklahoma?

Honestly, I was lucky enough to go- I was so new then, and there wasn't a lot of information about musical theatre programs out like there is now. Oh, my gosh, the info is everywhere-social--

I only had a handful of schools that I was auditioning for, and OU is one that I auditioned for at Unifieds. And I remember, it just felt so warm, and then anyway I got called in to go do the on-campus audition. I had toured some other conservatories on the East Coast and I was sure before I picked OU- "I'm getting out of the Midwest." I was 18 years old and I'm like, "I don't want to be in the Midwest. It's just the same as Kansas. I'm trying to go to the East Coast. I'm going to be in the city. I'm going to do something cool."

I walked onto the campus at OU and I was like, "This feels like home." And I walked in the musical theatre building and everybody was just so warm and kind and gracious. I don't know. It's just like when you know, you know. It just kind of clicked and I was like, "I feel welcome here, and this feels right." So, that's how.

What about their program do you think makes it special?

It's probably because you're getting the "big school" feeling. It's a liberal arts college, so it's not a conservatory, but the musical theatre program really does feel like you're getting that conservatory training. There's so much focus.

I think too what helps a lot is the fact that the professors try to stay really in the know about what's going on in New York and try to travel to New York a lot and have a lot of students of different experiences that they will ask to invest their knowledge back into the program. I think that's really important in the evolution of the program, and the fact that they are willing to evolve like that. It's super important. Because a lot of schools are not willing to evolve. You can't do that. The younger generation is already much different than us.

Debut of the Month: Meet Ezra Menas of JAGGED LITTLE PILL! Debut of the Month: Meet Ezra Menas of JAGGED LITTLE PILL!

Is there a piece of advice that one of your professors gave you somewhere along the way that you still hold onto?

Yes. Honestly, I don't remember who told me this, but I believe they said it's always good to get seen. And now that I've experienced auditioning all the time, and you hear all the no's and all that kind of stuff and you have to start being choosy a little bit about what you go to and where you put your energy. I'm like, "Yes, I agree. It's always good to get seen. And also take care of yourself." But if I didn't do this smaller production at the NYMT situation. If I hadn't gone to that one audition where I met Mia, where two years later she called me in to do this production for Alanis where Diane Paulus, and now I'm in-I could have not gone to that and...

It's wild when you think about things like that...

It's absolutely wild. So that piece of advice-I always have that in the back of my mind. And I also weigh in my own mental health and physical health and things like that. But I liked that one. That stuck with me.

Your big number at the end of Jagged is "You Learn." What has this whole experience taught you, either about your craft or about life in general? What have you learned?

I think to share vulnerability and to allow yourself to be messy. Because that's almost what our show is all about-this covering up of the things that we feel aren't perfect. And you have to allow people the chance to see you in order for yourself to be given a chance to be supported. And, yes, I just feel like sharing vulnerability is a huge one. And that can be so scary and so messy. And then learning from that and growing from that.



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