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Interview: Jaclyn June Johnson of MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD at Commonweal Theatre Company

This production runs now through October 29th

Interview: Jaclyn June Johnson of MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD at Commonweal Theatre Company Welcome to London's rowdy Music Hall Royale! It's 1895 and the evening's entertainment is a musical retelling of Charles Dickens's final novel: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. But...there's a hitch: Dickens died before he finished the story. No one knows how it ends. Who killed Edwin Drood?! That's up to you! You'll become the ultimate detective as the audience casts their vote at every show. With sweeping melodies, boisterous comedy, and 400 possible endings, this Tony Award-winning musical promises a jolly good time at the theatre.

We chat with Jaclyn June Johnson who plays Alice Nutting as Edwin Drood.

How does it feel to have live audiences and theatres back?

Having live audiences back has been rejuvenating. Theatre, at its heart, is about community. Gathering together and sharing the experience of a live story is at the core of what makes theatre special. It is uplifting to share in those moments again.

What inspired you to pursue performing?

The theatrical arts have been a part of my life since my childhood as an audience member and a dedicated extracurricular activity. That early passion carried me right into a college scholarship. Leaving high school, I thought I would never continue theatre professionally, but it was wonderful to think I could keep it active in my life. As I continued performing and training in school, I was afforded professional opportunities, my skills broadened, and my confidence and imagination grew. College was the first time I was exposed to a great number of working professionals in theatre and performance, and suddenly I could imagine a full time life in the arts. From there it was all about continuing to audition, learning everything I could from each moment of rehearsal and performance, and striving to make each moment on stage as magical and inspiring as those early moments in my childhood proved to be.

How does this role compare to other roles you've played?

I'm playing Alice Nutting, the charmingly popular Victorian era Music Hall performer who takes on the role of Edwin Drood in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Most notable distinction about this role is the unique framing device. We are all actors, playing actors, performing a "musicale with dramatic interludes," for a Mystery which Charles Dickens died before he could finish. But aspiring audiences shouldn't worry that there is no ending to this tale, for their votes will help to solve the mystery. It's a bonkers device that is just too fun to miss!

What was your process for developing your character?

It all starts with solid script work! I spend a lot of time reading the play, looking for clues about my character. How do they talk? What do they talk about and what do they care about? How do they see themselves? How do others see them? How do they relate to others and vice versa? This analysis is the foundation of creating any character. Then through conversations with your director (in this case, Craig Johnson) and exploration in rehearsals, the details around how this character moves and reacts begin to take shape. With this particular show, there were a lot of fun conversations about both the actors we play, as well as the characters they portray.

Do you have a favorite song in the show?

There are so many great songs in this show, and I absolutely love each solo line I sing, but my favorites are the duets I get to perform. Both "Two Kinsmen," and "Perfect Strangers," have special spots in my heart. "Two Kinsmen," I am fond of its bouncy playfulness which I get to perform with the dynamite Tim Sailer. "Perfect Strangers," which I perform with the amazing Lizzy Andretta, I love for its flowing melody and complex harmonies. All that said, my favorite song in the show is "The Wages of Sin," because I just adore watching and hearing the incredible talents of Betti Battocletti.

Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

There are so many fun moments in this play it really is hard to choose a favorite, but if I had to name just one which people should look forward to, I guess I would mention the second act when we arrive at Cloisterham Train Station. Without giving too much away, there are some very zany train-related antics as we meet two aspiring detectives who are on the lookout for clues as to what has happened to Edwin Drood.

Did you face any challenges with your character or the production?

The music is so interesting and every measure there is something unexpected. It's an absolutely enchanting script and score by Rupert Holmes, but certainly gave me some challenges. From the tongue-twisting wit of his lyrics to the vibrant build of each note, He has written a musical which challenges and inspires.

How was working with the cast and the creative team?

It's a simply delightful cast and production team! I can't say enough kind things about the talents which worked on this show. And not only are these people hugely talented, they are also incredibly wonderful humans to work with. When the hours are long and hard, having wonderful people by your side really makes it much more rewarding. I'm grateful to work with such incredible people!

What do you hope the audience takes away from seeing this production?

Mostly I hope they have a good time and walk away with big smiles on their faces. And I hope some of them are so charmed that they come back to see it a second time. With over 400 different endings, each audience will vote to find a different ending to our mystery! It's a fun show, so I just hope they leave having been entertained and delighted by this rollicking who-done-it.

What are your favorite local spots?

There is so much to do in Lanesboro! Bike trails, outdoor activities, and great places to stay! Folks should grab a meal at Juniper's Restaurant, enjoy drinks or a flatbread at The High Court Pub, or have an original Lanesbrew at Sylan Brewing. Or eat and drink at one of the other great places in Lanesboro! Check out for more about dining in Laneboro, MN.

Thank you Jacyln for your time!

For more ticket and show information, please click the ticket button link below

Photo by Maureen Janson Heintz

From This Author - Jared Fessler

Jared [He/Him] is originally from Iowa and resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up doing theatre and studied music, dance, and theatre with additional training in BFA musical theatre.

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