August 6, 2018

Meet Jasmine Eileen Coles

This Season we take a look at all sides of humanity, and we are thrilled to present Mr. Joy a one-woman show with nine memorable characters. The LDTC is welcoming Jasmine Eileen Coles who will make her LDTC debut in Mr. Joy. We took a few minutes to learn more about Jasmine.

What is Mr. Joy about to you? 

Mr. Joy is about faith, happiness, change, hope, defeat, systematic oppression, racial bias, sexuality, grief, and love within a community that connects through a shoemaker named Mr. Joy.

In Mr. Joy you will be portraying 9 different characters, what about this is most challenging for you? Most exciting? 

One of the reasons that I love this solo production is the opportunity to transition into different characters right there in front of the audience. When there is nowhere to hide, it requires my work to be deeply rooted in knowing each character authentically. The beauty of a transition is in the space where I am not one character nor am I the other, but I am existing where both connect, and that space offers so much humanity. And spaces that offer humanity are so exciting.

What is most challenging is unpacking everything that comes up for me when authentically stepping into these characters. I have to look my bias and prejudice perspectives right in the face and investigate them, educate myself, and change. And while it is challenging, I LOVE that part of the work. As an artist, it is my job to do that work on myself. For me, it is imperative for the healing that needs to take place in this world.

What is most rewarding about this show? 

The opportunity for the audience to see themselves. Most of my work exists at the intersections of activism and art. I’ve witnessed art reach people in ways that transcend the mind and this kind of work has the ability to reconnect, heal, and rebuild. I believe having that kind of opportunity at this time in the country is invaluable.

What do you hope audiences take away from Mr. Joy? 

I hope audiences are able to see all the colors in this piece AND see these stories as universal. To see all the shapes of these characters, all the choices of these characters, all the circumstances, all the belief systems, and still see that it is universal. I must be completely honest and say that telling these raw stories in an unknown space with an unknown audience is such a risky and delicate task. Some of these stories are so raw and honest and rooted in the effects of the systems in America and if told in a way that does not honor that, it could perpetuate narratives that are problematic.  I have full faith in the Director Larissa Lury, the team, and myself to be bold, fearless, and compassionate with this piece. I hope the audience is able to sit in the uncomfortable moments and listen with an open heart and mind.

You have performed in productions all over the country. As an actor, what role has stuck out to you the most as the most special? 

It’s hard to say what’s most special, I am very selective about my work and truly feel that each project is so valuable in the place and time that it is presented. I will say that my original health-oriented project The Tale of Chef Kale continues to be a very special process. The Tale of Chef Kale is an interactive one-woman show for children and families that surrounds a fictional seven-year-old girl named Kale. Kale has an Afro made partly of the dark leafy green Kale and lots of stories to tell. Chef Kale invites families and children to explore healing, freedom, self-care, identity, and develop a relationship with your food and your digestive system. This immersive show explores the meaning of soul food with curiosity and wonder while offering a holistic perspective of wellness.

Developing this work came about when I was teaching at a predominantly African-American elementary school in NYC and the children told me that vegetables weren’t for them. I knew that the lack of resources in this community and many others take a toll on the children’s connection to fruits and vegetables and in turn their connection to wellness.

So with this project, I literally get to witness the reconnection take place as children come up after the show and taste meals they have never had before made only of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Finally, we are thrilled to be welcoming you to the Lake Dillon Theatre Company. What most excites you about working with us?

I have heard nothing but transformative and breathtaking experiences from other actors about working at Lake Dillon Theatre Company! I have never been to Colorado and I am very excited to connect with a community that appreciates and values solo work and engages in challenging productions representing communities of color.