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Interview: Theatre Life with Yesenia Iglesias

The versatile actress on Signature Theatre's Daphne's Dive and more.

Interview: Theatre Life with Yesenia Iglesias
Yesenia Iglesias

Today's subject Yesenia Iglesias is currently living her theatre life onstage at Signature Theatre in Daphne's Dive which runs through March 20th in the ARK space.

Last time Yesenia performed at Signature, she was getting beat up and bludgeoned to death in Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Read on to see how she decompressed nightly from such an intense experience.

Locally she has been seen at Ford's Theatre in A Christmas Carol, Shakespeare Theatre Company in Hamlet and King Charles III, Kennedy Center in Kid Prince and Pablo, Folger Theatre in Love's Labor's Lost, Round House Theatre in The Legend of Georgia McBride, and at Constellation Theatre Company in The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and The Arabian Nights.

On the other coast Yesenia appeared at ACT/Sidecountry Theatre in Passing Strange, Seattle Children's Theatre in Mwindo and Seattle Shakespeare in the Parks in Henry V.

When not performing she can be found teaching in the theatre department at Howard University.

Yesenia Iglesias is a versatile and very talented performer to be sure. Grab some seats to Daphne's Dive at Signature Theatre to see Yesenia and a great cast under the direction of Paige Hernandez.

Yesenia is living her theatre life to the fullest and area theatre goers are incredibly lucky to have her part of this community.

Had you been working in another profession before you started your acting career?

I went to school for English Literature at the University of Alabama. I wasn't intending on doing acting or theater until my junior year. But I didn't have a major in it.

I was just doing university level work. I was working in the nursing department of all sorts of different universities and came across an audition notice and auditioned I never looked back. Yeah.

Did you go to school for theatre?

I received my graduate degree in theater at the University of Washington.

Did any of your professors have an effect on your acting career?

Kathy Madden and Mark Jenkins were the reasons I went to the University of Washington in the first place. Kathy Madden is a well-known Alexander technique instructor and she's traveled the world and I consider her my friend to this day. Mark Jenkins, when I first met him at the audition, he really made a huge impact on me. He just was so down to earth and was really one of the reasons I thought I could do this. I could see myself at the University of Washington, with the culture as fast as it is, if he sort of represented the culture there.

Interview: Theatre Life with Yesenia Iglesias
Yesenia Iglesias at bottom right with the company of
Slow Burn Theatre's The Rocky Horror Show.
Photo courtesy of the artist.

What was your first professional job and what do you remember most about your opening night in that show?

When I was still as a non-equity actor, my first professional job where I got a nice hefty paycheck was The Rocky Horror Show with Slow Burn Theatre Company in Boca Raton, Florida. I worked really, really hard on that show. I was a dance captain and it was exhilarating. I remember there was a lot of pressure. I felt a lot of pressure because I was a dance captain and it was an extremely dance heavy show. And what did I know of dance and all these things that was just sort of dressing myself into the profession. It was a it was a giant leap of faith.

Interview: Theatre Life with Yesenia Iglesias
L-R James Whalen and Yesenia Iglesias in
Signature Theatre's production of Daphne's Dive.
Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Can you please give us a brief overview of Daphne's Dive including something about your character in the show?

Daphne's Dive is about six regulars who frequent a bar in North Philly. And they're all inspired by real characters from the playwright's life. The show is about how they build family together, how they manage loss and grief and love and joy and how they make the decision to go on this sort of journey together. Sometimes it comes with pain and hurt and sometimes it's beautiful and wonderful. and like it's really a play about the human condition. I think the playwright does that very well.

My character Inez is the sister of Daphne, the lead character, she is vivacious and sassy, and an incredible storyteller. She is a heartwarming presence as well. She is supportive, and uplifting to others. But at the end of the day, she is it hurricane Ines, she comes into the room and the air kind of changes, and she's just a wonder to perform.

What drew you in to Daphne's Dive after your first read of the script?

Well, it isn't often that I get to play a Puerto Rican, I am from Puerto Rico. I identify heavily and lovingly with my roots. And so, I follow the playwright wherever she goes. It isn't every day that you get to do a play about Puerto Ricans. That was the first thing that gravitated me towards the play.

The second thing were these incredible characters these strong women that come together. I love the idea of doing it at Signature and being able to return and just embody this beautiful character with this incredible story about family and the art of or the magic of storytelling and the magic of chosen family and just how beautiful that is.

Interview: Theatre Life with Yesenia Iglesias
Holly Twyford and Yesenia Iglesias in Signature Theatre's 2019 production of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

You were part of a very intense show at Signature a few years back called Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in which you got pretty beaten up onstage every night. How did you prepare nightly for that show and how did you decompress so as not to bring that show home with you each evening?

I was the fight captain for that show. One of the things we had to do was prepare for the physical demands of the show before each performance, and so that was one physical way of preparing for it. But I think honestly, when you work with Holly Twyford, and Felicia Curry, it's already a joy. We would play music before the show, we would dance around in the dressing room and hold hands so it was a it was a wonderful way of preparing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

After a scene, I would just come to my dressing room, take a deep breath, drink a ton of water, and then watch videos of puppies

Your stage credits include a fair amount of Shakespeare. Why do you think keeps Shakespeare's works relevant to a modern theatre going audience?

The beauty of the language, I think that there are many playwrights who have created works that are lyrical language, but there's really nothing like Shakespeare. There's also the ability for each theater and production company to create a world out of what he's done. There's a lot of opportunities with the various stories that he's told so people from all walks of life can tell these stories. You can tell the story on the corner of a store somewhere or you can tell the story in the park. It's all possible with Shakespeare and I think that that's one of the things that makes them timeless.

What does 2022 hold in store for you after Daphne's Dive?

I currently am a professor at Howard University. The future has another semester of working with students and guiding them through their artistic process. I teach first years and juniors and it's going to be really exciting.

Special Thanks to Signature Theatre's Director of Marketing Jennifer Buzzell and Deputy Director of Marketing, Director of Creative Content James Gardiner for their assistance in coordinating this interview.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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