5 Questions with "A Beautiful Noise" star Jessie Fisher
Fisher, an Arts Camp alumna who’s starring in “A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical,” shares her top tips for maximizing rehearsal time and overcoming stage fright.
Pursuing a career in theatre can be deeply rewarding, but achieving excellence in the discipline often requires years of dedicated training. For young artists looking to secure a place on the stage, it’s important to seek out advice from theatre veterans like Jessie Fisher.
Fisher is an alumna of Interlochen Arts Camp, where she studied in 1994. On Broadway, she starred as “Girl” in the musical Once and played “Delphi” in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Fisher also garnered regional theatre roles in Of Mice and Men, Frankenstein, Cabaret, It’s a Wonderful Life, and more. Most recently, she took the role of “Jaye Posner” in A Beautiful Noise, a Broadway musical about the life of singer-songwriter Neil Diamond.
Here, she shares her top tips for young actors who want to pursue meaningful careers in theatre.
1. What are some ways to improve your skills at improvisation?
Improving your skills at improv comes with being a participant in the world. So much of improv requires you to be able to respond in the moment to any circumstance. Usually improv tends to hit on things that are current and happening in the world, but also it can deviate into so many different directions. I think just living and paying attention to as many different things as possible, being a good listener, and being willing to abandon your own agenda and go on whatever ride your scene partners are taking you on is important.
You have to trust that whatever your response is to whatever is in front of you is the correct response, that your perspective is enough. It's not about saying the funniest thing or the smartest thing. The best gift I can give someone across from me is just responding from my own perspective, whatever that may be.
2. What can you do outside of rehearsal to maximize the effectiveness of your rehearsal time?
Work smarter, not harder. It's not necessarily just about clocking hours. Outside of rehearsal, think about where you fit into the big picture, and how you can show up the next day with whatever is most useful. That might mean making sure you know your lines really well so that you’re ready to do your job proficiently, or doing research where you might not know enough.
But that doesn't mean that you have to spend all your time outside of the rehearsal room thinking about what's happening in the room: it's also giving yourself permission to be a human and invest in your family and the other pieces of your life. Everything that happens—the things that make you a better person—will benefit you as a performer as well. Sometimes instead of pressuring yourself, you can just say: “You know what, I trust myself. I've done a lot of good work. And now I can enjoy my life more knowing that it makes me a stronger artist.”
3. What have you found to be helpful in overcoming performance anxiety or stage fright?
I'm not over it. I get scared every time I do it. There's a risk, and I don't try to deny it. The best way for me to get over stage fright is to accept that I am taking a risk, accept that my feelings of nervousness and fear are valid, because I want to honor the story I'm telling. It makes me nervous to do a skill live in front of a group of people where my voice could crack or I might forget a word. All the things I'm afraid of have happened to me; therefore, I know I've lived through them and I've survived them. But if I tell myself “this feeling that feels like fear or anxiety is actually just the excitement to share something I'm proud of,” then I can accept the fact that feeling that way is fine. And I can trust that everyone on stage is going to be there to support me. I'm not playing a solo sport.
4. What advice would you give to a young actor or actress who’s dreaming of being on Broadway one day?
There's no one path to Broadway: you get to forge your own way. It wasn't a focus of mine, originally. I went to school for chemistry when I was 18, and left a few credits short of a theatre degree. I've worked in this industry for 15 years, and then I waited until the COVID-19 pandemic to finish my degree. There are plenty of people who say “This is the program you have to go to. This is the school you have to get the degree from. This is the method of learning if you want to go to Broadway.” But that's not true for everybody. I think the most important thing is knowing what kind of art matters to you, what your artistic opinion is, what you want to be better at, and what that means for you. Defining your own version of success—instead of comparing it to other people's—is going to be the track that allows you to realize your dreams.
5. What is a perspective that young artists should seek to cultivate?
The big thing I wish people spoke to young people about more is the idea of success. Young people who set out to be artists often set their sights on big dreams like becoming a movie star or being on Broadway because those look in our minds like the definition of success. But along the journey of learning to become an artist, you’ll realize that there are so many ways to find success within your own boundaries. That’s all that matters. And that’s what keeps you challenging yourself, that's what keeps you growing as a human being and as an artist.
Along the journey of learning to become an artist, you’ll realize that there are so many ways to find success within your own boundaries.
Make goals, have dreams, and then ask yourself if you still want that, or if your direction has changed. I know plenty of people who started as actors and then decided to become lawyers or teachers. Maybe the skills they learned as an artist took them in another direction. Maybe living in a particular city, building a life, and doing theatre just for fun was satisfying enough. Holding yourself to your own barometer of success is such a valuable thing for young people to do.
Explore theatre programs at Interlochen Arts Camp here.