Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Planet Connections Interview - Amanda Johnson of "Jennie"

By Byrne Harrison

Actor/writer/producer Amanda Johnson is originally from Seattle where she earned a degree in drama from University of Washington. She began her career performing at Walt Disney World in Florida prior to moving to New York to continue training and performing. She’s performed at Abingdon Theater, Baruch Performing Arts Center, Lark Play Development Center, Astoria Performing Arts Center and The Producers Club among others. Last year she was nominated for Outstanding Actress in a One Act at the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity for her role in “The God Particle.” “Jennie” marks her first foray into full-length playwriting.

How did you first get involved in theatre?

I grew up attending theater and dance performances. Theater has always been an interest and passion of mine. As soon as I was old enough, I began taking acting classes and getting involved and haven’t stopped.

Who are your biggest influences?

My uncle is one of my biggest influences. When I was young, he created a hugely successful dance company far away in this city called New York. His creativity and drive is one reason I strive so hard.

What is your show about?

A young woman, Jennie, who is in the process of starting over when she discovers she’s pregnant. She realizes the choice she makes will change her life forever.

What inspired you to write it?

I was first inspired to write the story in 2011 when Jon Kyl stated on the Senate floor that well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does is abortions. Which was so the opposite of my experience with Planned Parenthood and, of course, his statement was completely untrue.

But I’m not a writer. I’m an actor. So I didn’t do anything for a while. But the idea stayed with me. I began to write what became the first draft of "Jennie" and was well into it when the blow up over birth control happened during the presidential candidacy race and when the Komen Foundation decided to cut their funding to Planned Parenthood. It’s a hot button item, but it also let me know that people out there care and that maybe I was on the right track tackling this subject matter.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?

Joan Kane of Ego Actus is my director for this reading. She’s fabulous. We’ve worked together many times, including in last year’s Planet Connections Festivity, where our one-act "The God Particle" was nominated for 6 awards.

Why was it important to you to be part of an eco-friendly theatre festival?

It’s important to protect our planet and support our communities.

Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity. What charity has your production chosen and why?

I’m doing a staged reading, which are free to the public so what we’ve decided to do is to write up a fact sheet to include it in the program. Our charity is Planned Parenthood.

What's next for you after Planet Connections?

I’m shooting a webseries called "Scout & Maggie," which will hopefully come out later this year. Also, I’m in the beginning reading stages of a new play by Scott Decker, which is slated to become a full production.

And finally, if a genie were to grant you one wish, what would you wish for?

A dishwasher.

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