As part of his creative research agenda, Assistant Professor of Directing (and Associate Director of the School) Jesse Jou spent the spring semester directing three notable projects in New York City and Seattle, while maintaining his teaching and service responsibilities at Texas Tech. His productions garnered attention in school districts and in the press.
In January, Jesse and his assistant director Kerstin Vaughn (soon-to-be a graduate from the MFA Performance & Pedagogy program) journeyed to New York City for an educational tour of Twelfth Night with The Acting Company, one of the United States' premiere classical theatre companies. The creative team collaborated over a four-week rehearsal process to develop a queer and gender-inclusive rendition of this Shakespeare piece for New York City area schools. The result was a delightful 70-minute interpretation of a classic work that struck a chord of magic and inclusivity with young students in the New York City area.
The cast of Bruise & Thorn by C. Julian Jiménez at Pipeline Theatre Co., 2022. Photo by Suzi Sadler. Costume
Design by Saawan Tiwari. Scenic Design by Sasha Schwartz. Lighting Design by Harbour
Edney. Sound Design by Matt Otto.
Jesse's second directing endeavor took place at the Pipeline Theatre Company for the world premiere of Bruise and Thorn, a play by C. Julian Jiménez. The play follows two genderqueer Puerto Rican cousins who work at a laundromat together and pursue their dreams. Jesse and Jiménez had worked together on a developmental workshop of the play at the Play Penn Conference in Philadelphia in 2018. Production was delayed due to the pandemic, and the play finally opened in 2022 with an impressive company of professional actors and collaborators. They were fortunate to work with choreographer Cesar Valentino, a pioneer of the dance form called Voguing. Originated by LGBTQ Black and Latiné communities, Voguing is a deeply significant practice for queer self-expression. Jesse said that working with Valentino was a dream come true. Jesse also was thrilled to work with WildWind co-artistic director Brian Quijada, who consulted on the raps in the show. The show received a New York Times Critic's Pick in March, and the run was extended through the beginning of April.
The cast of Two Mile Hollow by Leah Nanako Winkler at Intiman Theatre, 2022. Photo by Joe Moore. Costume Design
by Katrina Hess. Scenic Design by Reiko Huffman. Lighting Design by Vada Briceño.
Sound Design by Erin Bednardz and Madelyn Van Zant.
Jesse just finished directing Leah Nanako Winkler's play, Two Mile Hollow, a satirical play about a rich family with secrets, at the Intiman Theatre in Seattle. This production included an entirely Asian-American/Pacific Islander cast, which opened up the “rich white family with problems” theatrical genre to an entirely different, parodying perspective.
Jesse spent years building relationships with each of these theatres. “These projects don't just happen overnight,” Jesse shared: “It really is about playing the long game in terms of building relationships and doing the work. From the outside, it may look like a lot of creative opportunities all at once, but it's been the culmination of a lot of work over the years.” He hopes that he can share his advice about this process with his students as they strive to develop and maintain relationships with theatres and theatre-makers after they graduate.
Jesse's joyful demeanor, audience members' positive responses, and critics' thoughtful reviews are proof that inclusive, perceptive, and diverse theatre benefits theatergoers everywhere. Students in the School of Theatre and Dance at Texas Tech have the unique opportunity to learn from Jesse Jou's directing experiences. May we take hold of this good fortune and learn from his example!