Tony Nominee Jennifer Damiano prepares to share an intimate concert experience of her decade on Broadway at Joe’s Pub

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Jennifer Damiano picked up a Tony nomination for playing the “Invisible Girl” Natalie Goodman in the Pulitzer and Tony Award winning Next to Normal but Damiano’s decade-long career on Broadway has been anything but ghostly. Damiano started her career by becoming the youngest member of the Tony Award winning hit musical Spring Awakening before joining the cast of Next to Normal. Damiano has also recently been seen in the musical Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark and American Psycho on Broadway.

Now, after ten years on stage, Damiano is reflecting on growing up in the theatre community, the music that influenced her life and career, and her evolution from playing an angsty teenager to a leading lady. After two hit performances of her semi-autobiographical Joe’s Pub concert cabaret, Damiano is hitting the stage with a special encore presentation tomorrow, October 2 at 9:30pm. Tickets are available for sale on the Joe’s Pub website and the evening promises to be an exciting retrospect on one of the lives of one of the most recognizable young Broadway stars.

Damiano recently sat down with Stage Door Dish to discuss her personal and professional evolution, what she would say to her younger self, the advice she has carried with her through her career and why she’s ready to share a different side of herself in her cabaret.

SDD: How did the conception for this concert come to be?

JD: So my friend and music director Ben Rauhala had always been wanting me to do a solo show and I said ‘No, No, I’m not ready, I don’t know what to do, it makes me anxious’ and then we had worked on American Psycho together and the show closed so quickly that we both thought it was the perfect time. It marked the ten years that I have been working on Broadway from 15-25, and I thought I could work with this to make a beautiful story. That premiered over a year ago at 54 Below and it was a cabaret of my entire life, it was songs from the shows I had done, songs that kind of meant something to me throughout those times and throughout my career. We wove it together in a cohesive way. Then, a year later, we were like ‘let’s do this again but change it up a little bit’ and not make it so much about my life story and Joe’s Pub felt like the perfect place to do that just kind of be a little bit more of a rock star and just sing because I felt like singing!

SDD: Could you talk more about the process of choosing which songs to include?

JD: The Joe’s Pub show, there’s a couple of songs from shows that I have done but in the first version of the show there were songs that were my audition songs for certain shows. For example, in this version of it, we do a song from the American Psycho album that isn’t my song. We tried to choose edgier or interesting things opposed to me just singing what people have heard me sing so many times.

SDD: Is there a song that you want to talk about specifically that you are excited for people to hear?

JD: They are all so different, it’s a super eclectic mix, and I’m really excited for my friends, Kathryn Gallagher and Danny Quadrino, to sing with me because they are so great. The songs I’m doing with them make me really happy but I guess specifically it’s really hard for us to not just do complete like 90’s cover shows because Ben and I just want to sing 90’s all day. My favorite artist is Fiona Apple so we do a couple of Fiona Apple’s songs including Extraordinary Machine which shaped a lot of my upbringing. 

SDD: What is it like to look back on your career in theatre? You are easily one of the most recognizable names in theatre and also the youngest member of the original company of Spring Awakening. It’s so incredible to see how you’ve grown into a leading lady instead of being like the kid sister.

JD: It’s hard! It’s a really intense transition into being an adult actress because I’m so used to those angsty teenage roles and I’m growing into myself but it doesn’t necessarily mean you can immediately play adult characters or that you can go back in time and play high school characters which I don’t really think I can really do anymore. The first time we put the show together it was very therapeutic because I had actually never reflected on anything in such an intense way. American Psycho was the first show that I was a part of that closed while I was in it, I had always left a show and it kept running and eventually closed later on. That was a taste of being an adult in this industry. I finally had something to say about everything I’ve been through.

SDD: I do want to ask questions respectively like is there someone specifically you would want to work with again?

JD: Yes, I always say Adam [Chanler-Berat] so I feel like I need to say something else.

SDD: That’s my favorite answer that you could say…

JD: I just love him so much and we all got super tight while doing Next to Normal and I would work with anyone from Next to Normal again. I keep putting it into the universe so we’ll see! 

SDD: Is there something that if you could go back and talk to 15-year-old Jenn who’s just starting out, is there something specific that you’d say to her?

JD: I would say that I wish back then that I would spend a little less time worrying about things that aren’t as important as they really are, especially in this industry as a young person growing up in the community it has been easy to compare yourself to other people and want emulate what someone else is doing and look at someone else’s career and compare it to your own. When young people ask me for advice I just say just focus on what you do really well and do that and work on that and don’t worry about trying to do what anyone else is doing because you won’t be anyone else and they won’t be you. I know it sounds so cliche but I would just say focus a little more on what it is that I bring to the table that might be different from someone else.

SDD: Was there something that someone imparted to you that you carried with you?

JD: Alice [Ripley] has given me so much advice over the years about so many different things but she is so fearless and I’ve just always looked up to her. We’ve never had a specific conversation about it but I’ve always looked up to her and how bold she is and I’ve always wanted to try and take a little piece of that with me into my future because she really doesn’t ask for permission to be herself and that’s a very hard thing to do. So I try and think of her when I’m uncomfortable of nervous in a room or something.

SDD: At what point did you realize that theatre was your home, that you were a part of this business where you thrived and existed?

JD: I grew up as a middle child and I was always very emotional but once I started singing and doing community theatre and I started to feel like these other people are just like me and we are all so weird and absurd and unique together. I always felt like I had to conform a little bit to the group, be cool and be in, and once I started really working in theatre on Broadway with Spring Awakening specifically I sought that goal to be as different as possible and be just the complete opposite of what I had grown up with previously before I started meeting and working with a lot of actors. The friends that I’ve made and the connections that I have that you really just can’t get from anywhere else. It’s a very specific thing in the water here on Broadway.

SDD: This brings me to my final question–it’s obvious you’re so deeply connected and loving towards theatre, but what are you hoping your Joe’s Pub audience walks away with and how do you think they will feel during your show?

JD: I think that right now, in the world and in our country, it’s really special to go to the theatre in general but hopefully anyone who is coming to my show at Joe’s Pub can really enjoy themselves for at least an hour. And I would hope that younger people who look up to me can come and feel inspired to feel themselves or feel like they know me a little bit better.

About Samantha S.

"I found the theatre and I found my home.” ― Audra McDonald

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