Jen Davis (Violet) is relatively new to the Columbia theatre scene. She only moved here a couple of years ago, after all. You may have seen her onstage with Talking Horse as Catherine in the dark comedy Rapture, Blister, Burn, or as Dale in CEC’s production of Five Lesbians Eating Quiche. Jen is also a theatre patron who religiously attends as many productions as possible, and remarks that “Talking Horse Theater is an amazing place to engage with cutting edge, extraordinary works and talented, passionate people who are seriously dedicated to their craft. Talking Horse specializes in the kind of theater that makes folks think and grow beyond their own experiences and comfort zones.”
Jen’s passion for the environment keeps her busy around town. She is the Event Coordinator with Missouri River Relief, a local non-profit organization; you may have enjoyed her efforts in February with the Wild & Scenic Film Festival at the Blue Note, an annual fundraiser for Missouri River Relief. How does Jen spend her free time? Mostly “communing with nature alongside my best friend and canine sidekick, Frida Compost Davis. On any given weekend when the weather is decent enough, we’ll likely be camping, hiking, canoeing, boating, gardening and just plain enjoying the great outdoors.”
Violet isn’t an easy role to tackle, and Jen has had to put an immense amount of work and effort into preparing and performing her story. It’s amazing how effortless she makes it look! Here, she talks about her thoughts about the show and our town’s arts community.
What similarities & differences do you see between yourself and Violet?
There are many aspects of Violet’s character that I feel able to identify with. As a cis female, I too have struggled with self-love and acceptance in the face of the twisted reality that perceived outward beauty is often used to determine success, aptitude, and acceptance by one’s peers & community. As an intersectional feminist, I strongly believe every person deserves radical respect, love & inclusion.
Unlike Violet, I’m lucky enough to have a strong family support system and deep sense of belonging in my community. By the time we meet Violet on her journey to seek healing, she has experienced much loss, loneliness and isolation. I also want to mention that I think many of Violet’s character traits are easily admirable. Violet is hardy, independent, strong willed, and hopeful; definitely a combination of attributes I aspire to possess.
What do you hope the audience comes away from this play thinking about, talking about, or asking themselves?
I hope the audience members recognize, experience vicariously, and empathize with the marginalization of and discrimination against both Violet and Flick, stemming from perceived lack of attractiveness/gender discrimination and racism, respectively. This societal othering is an unacceptable reality that continues in present times. I hope the audience members are moved by the story and are inspired to find ways to contribute to the co-creation of a socially just society that values difference & diversity and rejects the notion that oppression is someone else’s problem.
I love the lyrics in Flick’s solo, “Let It Sing”, especially, “There’s precious little really, folks like us control. But you can make your music from the simplest thing. And you’re the one has got to tend your soul; you got to give it room, and let it sing…” Those lines really speak to the resilience of Flick’s character to charge fully into life, despite obstacles of racism and limited social mobility. Flick sees the spark of rebounding hope in Violet and urges her to draw on her own inner strength as well.
What do you want the audience to know about the arts community in CoMo?
It’s rich, vibrant, and welcoming. The more, the merrier so come carve out your space in it and help it grow! For a community this size, we are extremely fortunate to have such an abundance of opportunities to make art with one another. Huge thanks to the audience for supporting Talking Horse Productions and please tell your friends about it. Also, be sure to check out and support the many wonderful art studios, music venues, local musicians, film festivals, and other local theaters that are right here in our backyard. Sharing and making art together is one of the strongest ways we build community resilience and make the world a more joyful place!
What is your #1 karaoke song?
It’s a toss-up between “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas and “Life’s a Happy Song” from the Muppet’s movie.