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BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Jamie Eacker

Jamie Eacker

Happy 2017 everyone!! Today's subject is currently living her theatre life on a sinking ship at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia. Before you think that was a derogatory statement toward Signature Theatre's superb current production, let me be clear that Jamie Eacker is portraying the roles of Kate Mullins, Stewardess and 1st Class Passenger in Titanic. The production runs through January 29th.

Jamie is no stranger to Signature Theatre. Titanic marks her 16th production with the company. She most recently was in the ensemble of Freaky Friday where she understudied and got to go on for the lead actress Heidi Blickenstaff and also for Sherri Edelen. Other select Signature credits include Company (Tick Tock dance specialty), Girlstar, Chess, Xanadu, and Beaches.

Some of Jamie's area theatre credits include the lead role in Artscentric's Delilah, The Wild Party at Teatro 101; A Christmas Carol at Ford's Theatre; Carrie: The Musical and Grey Gardens at Studio Theatre; The Music Man at Washington Savoyards; and Hairspray, Aida, The Wizard of Oz and George M! at Toby's Dinner Theatre.

She has toured with The Kennedy Center's Theatre for Young Audiences productions of Elephant and Piggie's: We Are in A Play! and The Phantom Tollbooth and a production of Grease that took her to China.

While you might have seen Jamie onstage in a production somewhere, you might not know that she understudies in many of the shows. Being an understudy is a rough job because you have to learn the entire show for whomever you are covering while learning your own track. You might not ever get to go on for the person you are understudying for, but you have to be ready at anytime just in case something happens. As I mentioned earlier, Jamie got to go on in Freaky Friday and I was lucky enough to see her when she did. It was a good night of theatre.

Titanic at Signature Theatre is a theatrical event and I urge all of you to go see it in this immersive staging. The cast, the orchestra, the production concept and the staging make it a one of a kind experience.

Jamie Eacker is another example of a talented artist living her theatre life to the fullest. Check out her website so you can keep up with all that Jamie is up to. SAIL ON!!

Were you a theatre kid growing up and what were some of the musicals and/or plays that influenced you the most into becoming a performer?

I really didn't consider myself a theatre kid while I was growing up. It wasn't until my summer before my senior year of high school where I did my first full-fledged musical, Grease! I started dancing when I was three years old at a small dance studio called Carol Cameos and was a varsity cheerleader from freshman year all the way through senior year. I was known as the national anthem girl because I sang it a cappella for every sporting game. I grew up in a small town in New York called Gloversville where we had one theatre, The Glove Theater. It wasn't until there that I realized I could sing, act and dance all at one time. I hadn't seen my first Broadway show until I got accepted into the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA). I saw Cabaret at Studio 54 and then from there I fell in love with 42nd Street which I think I saw about fourteen times. I just fell in love with song and dance and just the joy that musical theatre brought to me.

Jamie Eacker as Queenie in Teatro 101's production of The Wild Party. Photo by Ken Stanek.

You are a graduate of AMDA in New York City. At any point, did you consider staying in New York to pursue your career or did you always know you were going to make your living in the DC area?

I think New York City taught me a lot about life. I knew no one when I went to New York' it was just me and the city. It taught me how to be resilient and showed me how hard you have to work in this business. And at a certain point I had to weight my options. I contemplated for a while, driving back and forth, going to my fair share of auditions, but I had to ask myself do I want to stay in New York City and possibly not work all of the time or do I want to stay with my D.C. friends/ family and consistently work? Do I need that trophy of New York City and Broadway? At the end of the day, I didn't need that. There are SO many opportunities in DC. I wanted to gain experience here in and really grow as an actor. I get to do as much theatre as possible while being able to have friends and the lifestyle that I want.

L-R Chris Sizemore, Erin Driscoll, Russell Sunday, Hasani Allen,Tracy Lynn Olivera, Katie McManus, Stephen Gregory Smith and Jamie Eacker in Signature Theatre's production of Titanic. Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Titanic is your 16th production at Signature Theatre. What is it about this place that keeps you coming back time and time again to perform?

Is it really the 16th already? Time has flown by! I do pride myself on being a hard worker and a dedicated actor. I think Eric Schaeffer and Matthew Gardiner (the artistic and associate artistic directors] recognize that and respect that about me. One of many aspects I have always loved about Signature Theatre is there is always an open line of communication in the entire process of the show. It doesn't matter how big or how small your part is, they really let you explore the piece and work together to find your character.

Some would say that parts of Titanic are almost like singing grand opera. Do you agree with this assessment? Did you vocally prepare for this show differently than you did, for example, on Freaky Friday?

I would agree that the Titanic score is difficult to sing, but I think that's why not a lot of people do the show. Being a performer and being is professional, this is our job. To know how to prepare for Titanic is not going to be the same prep as Freaky Friday. They used different parts of my voice. Freaky Friday was more belting/mix belting, while Titanic is heavy on controlled breathing with a legit sound. Both demanding, but in different ways. I am always searching for different techniques to warm up my voice and body. It's not about being the best singer, but a smart singer for longevity.
Without divulging too much, can you please talk about the production concept for Signature Theatre's production of Titanic?
EPIC!

I saw you go on for Heidi Blickenstaff in Freaky Friday. When you understudy, do you find yourself doing prep work even when you're not in an understudy rehearsal? Is there a lot of pressure to always be ready to go on when you might already be performing in the show nightly?

Highlighters, notecards and caffeine, OH MY! As an understudy/swing, you will always have to be ready to go on at a moment's notice. Is it nerve-wracking? Of course! Is it exciting? Of course! And that's why we do it! Although we had a long rehearsal process for Freaky Friday. we only had four understudy rehearsals. That doesn't sound like enough time to get everything prepped, but most of the work is done on your own and then during understudy rehearsal is when you get a chance to perform and perfect it.

L-R Joe Mallon, Shayna Blass, Allie Parris, Ashleigh King, and Jamie Eacker in the Kennedy Center's production of Elephant & Piggie's We Are In a Play! Photo by Teresa Wood.

After Titanic, what does 2017 look like for you?

From east to west coast and even Canada, I get the honor of going back on tour again with the Kennedy Center's Elephant and Piggie's: We Are In A Play! It is directed by Jerry Whiddon, choreographed by Jessica Hartman, and written by the one and only Mo Willems! You can always check in with my website to see what I'm up to.

Special thanks to Signature Theatre's Deputy Director of Creative Content and Publicity James Gardiner for his assistance in coordinating this interview.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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