HIGH SCHOOL DRAMA: MBA's Jess Darnell

There are some terrific young actors coming up through the ranks in Tennessee, mentored by some outstanding educators who continually raise the bar for academic theater. As a result, you can't help but wonder if actors of the "more seasoned" variety are casting a look back over their shoulders at the youngsters gaining on them. Seriously.

The talent pool is deep here, a fact exemplified by today's young actor featured in HIGH SCHOOL DRAMA: Jess Darnell, an 18-year-old senior at Nashville's Montgomery Bell Academy, who graduates next spring after already amassing an impressive theatrical resume, including being part of the 2012 MBA cast that won the Tennessee Theatre Association's one-act play festival with The Elephant Man. Subsequently, during competition at the Southeastern Theatre Conference, Jess was named best actor for his performance as Frederick Treves in the Bernard Pomerance play.

This fall, in MBA's competition entry-The Fifth Sun by Nicholas A. Patricca-Jess was named best actor in the TTA competition.

Perhaps you should commit the name to memory: Jess Darnell is going places (plus, he's got the whole favorite actors and excellent taste in classic musical theater going for him)!

What's your theatrical goal in life? I would like to be a teaching artist. I would want to work as an actor, while also educating in the arts. I'd like to start two organizations: a children's Shakespeare company, educating children in literature and the performing arts; the other being a clown therapy troupe that would visit local hospitals to give some help and heart to those in need...but I would be completely fine with a part in a Broadway show!

If you could play any role in any show...what would it be? I would love to play Cornelius Hackle in Hello, Dolly! Actually, I think I'd just be happy playing a waiter in that show, to be perfectly honest. I just wanna sing that title song!

What's been your best theatrical experience to date? My favorite experience thus far has to be when I played Frederick Treves in Bernard Pomerance's The Elephant Man. We took the show to the Tennessee Theater Association's state one-act festival and won, taking home four all-star cast awards. When we took the show to the Southeastern Theater Conference, the show won additional awards, and I won Best Actor in the region. That was really cool, and aside from the awards, I was head-over-heels in love with that show. I loved the cast, the concept; the script is beautifully written. Our director rocked. It was great-I was really proud of our work on that show.

Who are your favorite actors? Elaine Stritch immediately comes to mind. I'm also a big fan of Jack Lemmon, Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett.

What show that you've never seen would you most like to see? If I had a time machine, I would want to go back and see Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner tear it up as Daisy and Violet in Side Show.



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From This Author Jeffrey Ellis

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