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I am pleased to be performing as a creative hero of mine, Jean Cocteau, for a staged reading of a brand new play by William Emboden on June 23, at 7pm at the West Hollywood Public Meeting Room & Council Chambers (the brand new stage and multi-use space located below the library).
Making the play doubly exciting for me is the opportunity to perform alongside my longtime friend and artistic collaborator, R. SKY Palkowitz, who will be playing the French author, Colette. The play is an exploration of the close bond and friendship between these remarkable creative figures of 20th Century France. The special one-time production is also part of a two-month celebration of Cocteau’s artwork sponsored by the City of West Hollywood, and several rare pieces are on display in a gorgeous exhibition in the West Hollywood Library through July. I will be posting several blogs over the next few weeks about the show and the iconic figures — so be sure to check back in to JasonJenn.com periodically for more.
My own experience of Cocteau began many years ago while in college at the University of Iowa as a double major in Theatre Arts and Film. His name came up during my studies, although the time we spent on him was brief. In my theatre history classes he was mentioned as making posters and designing productions for the Ballet Russes. In my film history classes he was mentioned as making ground-breaking films like “Blood of a Poet”, “Orpheus” and “Beauty and the Beast”.
As I read up more about his diverse career, I was quite fascinated by just how many different creative outlets he had and as I discovered more about his persona, he became a hero for me in several ways. I was still newly coming to terms with my own sexuality at the time, he became an early example of both an openly homosexual man and creative force.
(see here) as a great example of being a “Jack-of-all-trades” his lover Jean Marais proclaimed that no matter what Cocteau did in his life, he was always a poet in those mediums. In interviews Cocteau believes that when he draws, he is making poetry with the strokes of the brush and in the lines of the pencil.
It is both an honor and a challenge to embody the role of Cocteau for this production. There are several examples available of Cocteau speaking in interviews or within his own films. He possesses a very distinct and unusual cadence in his voice, but more than merely imitating his style of speaking, I am given the task of interpreting his character for a modern audience who will mostly have very little experience. He can be a playful trickster of a man, who loves to entertain people with stories. He can also be deeply intellectual and serious. He was a larger than life at times to be sure and the line between characterization and human portrayal is a delicate one.
I am very fortunate to have the support of a beautiful script by Cocteau scholar Emboden, which possess many scrumptious lines befitting Cocteau in that they read like poetry. The process of doing this production is allowing me to become closer Cocteau, and I am quite humbled by the task of representing a man I so admire.
More to come about the other great figure of this play: Colette!