Q&A: Chat with Jennifer Werner, mom, director of N.C. Theatre's 'Little Mermaid'
Posted July 20, 2014
Jennifer Werner, a mom of three originally from Charlotte, has spent her career on stage or just off it.
Her credits include working as associate director of the Tony Award-winning "The Book of Mormon," along with a host of other productions on and off Broadway.
Her latest gig is as director of N.C. Theatre's production of "Disney's The Little Mermaid," which runs July 29 to Aug. 3 at the Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh. I checked in with the New York-based Werner about the show, her career and motherhood.
Here is our email chat:
Go Ask Mom: The N.C. Theatre will present The Little Mermaid this summer. Tell us about the show and how you'll bring the story to life on stage.
Jennifer Werner: The Little Mermaid is a musical stage adaptation of the beloved Disney film of the same name, which came out in 1989. The Broadway version of the show debuted in 2008 and subsequent regional productions have been mounted since then. What's exciting about our NCT production of The Little Mermaid is that it is based on the animated film with all of the glorious, Academy Award-winning Ashman/Menken music that everyone knows and loves. But add to that the addition of glorious new Menken songs, more story, and exciting special effects. The Little Mermaid at NCT includes tap dancing seagulls, thrilling production numbers, and the beautiful story of a young mermaid who has the courage to follow her dreams.
GAM: We have some amazingly talented kids in the Triangle who perform for many of your shows. Who are the kids in this production? What's it like to work with them?
JW: There certainly are some amazingly talented kids in the Triangle area who have been cast in North Carolina Theatre's production. From the audition process alone, I must say I was absolutely blown away at the level of professionalism these kids displayed. I audition seasoned professionals in New York City all the time, and I must say the preparation and skill level was most impressive! No matter what career these kids end up pursuing in their lives, the confidence, self-motivation and love of the arts they are learning will be invaluable for them!
GAM: You're directing the show. What else have you worked on and how has your experience changed since you had your own children, especially when direction family shows?
JW: I am also the associate director for The Book of Mormon, which keeps me pretty busy with four on-going productions. I have been in the business, first as a performer, and now as a director and choreographer for over 20 years. In that time, I have worked on numerous regional, Off-Broadway, international, and collegiate theater productions. I am also extremely active in the development of new work. I would have to say that becoming a mother gives an insight and depth to my work that is unique. There aren't a lot of female directors in this business. Additionally, after becoming a working mother, I've learned to run on less sleep and make the most of whatever time I have!
GAM: What shows are coming up for N.C. Theatre in the next season that families should mark their calendars for?
JW: NCT’s Conservatory just finished it’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar, which ran July 10 to 13. It was great to see these young stars in action and for kids to see their peers taking to the stage in a large-scale all-student production. Many of the kids that were in that production will be in The Little Mermaid as well. Highlights of the 2014/15 Season are Billy Elliot (for the older kids) and the imaginative and nnovative Peter and the Starcatcher, an award-wining prequel to Peter Pan. Plus, next summer, a great family toe-tapper takes to the stage in the Buddy Holly Story.
GAM: You have what seems, from the outside, as such a fun job, but I'm sure it can be stressful at times. What do you love about it?
JW: You are very correct to call it fun and stressful! I love what I do creatively - designing a show, working with artistic collaborators, staging a show. The most rewarding aspect is probably working with the actors. Nothing better than inspiring and being a part of someone's artistic process and hopefully helping them grow and realize their dreams.
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