BWW Interview: Jodi Long and SURFING MY DNA at NJ Rep 5/2 TO 5/26
New Jersey Repertory Company (NJ Rep) will present Surfing My DNA by actress/playwright, Jodi Long from Thursday, May 2 through Sunday, May 26, 2019. Directed by Eric Rosen, the play stars Jodi Long and features composer/musician Yukio Tsuji.
Surfing My DNA is the true story of a popular husband and wife nightclub act of the '40s and '50s narrated and framed by the experiences of their daughter, Jodi. Combining a family's journey, show business history and the ravages of racism, it is a tale of humor, passion, and perseverance against insurmountable odds.
Broadwayworld.com enjoyed the opportunity to interview Jodi Long about her career and Surfing My DNA.
Jodi Long made her debut at age 7 in Nowhere To Go But Up in the first of 5 Broadway shows: Loose Ends, The Bacchae, Getting Away with Murder and the revival of Flower Drum Song for which she won an Ovation Award at The Mark Taper in Los Angeles. Lincoln Center, The Public Theater, The Roundabout, Manhattan Theater Company, The Arena Stage, Long Wharf, Hartford Stage, and more in roles ranging from Helena in A Midsummer's Night Dream, Cherie in Bus Stop to Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday. Contemporary playwrights she has worked include Wendy Wasserstein, David Henry Hwang, Michael Weller, Stephen Belber, Chay Yew, and Phillip Gotanda. Most recently seen as Kumiko in USA's Falling Water. Other TV series regulars: Okcha in Sullivan and Son, Margaret Cho's mother in All American Girl, Cafe Americain and Miss Match. Films include Beginners, Patty Hearst, Sour Sweet, Striking Distance, The Hot Chick and Rollover. Jodi wrote and co-produced the documentary Long Story Short about her vaudevillian parents. It won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2008 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and voted the top ten Asian Films of 2008 by UCLA's Asia Institute. Jodi is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences serving on the Actor's Branch Executive Committee. She is a National Board member at SAG AFTRA where she Chairs the EEO Committee. Jodi also serves as President of the Board for Visual Communications, supporting and promoting the creation, presentation and preservation of film by and about Asian Pacific Americans.
When did first realize that you would have a career in the arts?
My parents were vaudevillians and night club entertainers. I used to draw pictures of us on stage together. I did my first Broadway show at seven, NOWHERE TO GO BUT UP directed by Sidney Lumet. After I graduated from college and got cast in my second Broadway play as an adult, Michael Weller's LOOSE ENDS, starring Kevin Kline, did I think a career as an actor was viable.
Can you tell us a little about your education and/or some significant mentors?
I graduated from Performing Arts High School, now Laguardia School of the Arts and then graduated form SUNY Purchase with a BFA in Theater. Joseph Anthony was my mentor in school. Outside of school my mentors and teachers were Bobby Lewis, Shelly Winters and Harold Guskin. If not for their encouragement and support I probably wouldn't have lasted this long in the business!
What was your main inspiration for writing Surfing My DNA ?
I wanted to write the stories of my family that would be lost if they weren't recorded. The twists and turns of life that occur and lead you down certain paths. I find that interesting.
What are some of the challenges and rewards of performing in a play that you have also written?
Well, as an actor you always want to shoot the writer! Kidding....It is a dichotomy while performing. You would think since I wrote it, it would be easy to learn but I have to learn it piece by piece anyway. The reward is that it is a story I really want to tell. To use my whole instrument as an actor in collaboration with director Eric Rosen and composer musician Yukio Tsugi is a dream come true.
Tell us a little about working with NJ Rep.
I worked there last year with a great cast in Michael Tucker's FERN HILL with Jill Eikenberry. It is rare that a theater only produces new plays in a small intimate space and I am delighted that NJ Rep wanted to do SURFING. It's at the Jersey Shore a few blocks from the ocean air and 3 towns from where I spent summers as a child, Bradley Beach. So it's a bit of a homecoming.
What would you like audiences to know about the show?
Surfing My DNA is a life in the theater story told through an Asian American lens. What it takes to succeed when you're "of color". It's also about imprints. The imprints in our DNA of course, but also the emotional imprints we acquire from our parents and from our culture and society.
Can you share any of your future plans with our readers?
Follow Jodi Long on Twitter @xojodilong and on Instagram @xojodilong
New Jersey Repertory Company is located at 179 Broadway in Long Branch. Performances of Surfing My DNA are Thursdays, Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm; Sundays at 2pm. A special talk-back with Ms. Long will be presented on Thursday, May 2 following the performance. A meet-and-greet with reception will follow the Saturday, May 4th evening performance. For tickets call 732-229-3166 or visit the Company's web site at http://njrep.org/.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jodi Long