Lessons for life
January 3, 2011
Jan Godshaw is having the time of her life. This mother of three decided to expand her professional horizons by auditioning for a part in the Chicago production of "Johnny Boy's Graduation" (johnnyboysgraduation.com). She got hired to play porn star Jamie James, despite never having acted a day in her life. She shares her story in this week's "Take This Job and Love It."
Weigel: So what prompted you to take this leap and audition for a play?
Godshaw: I just had too much extra time on my hands and I was going thru craigslist and I saw the listing. The show sounded fun—dinner theater with audience interaction and the actors can improvise. The writer Mark Nasser was one of the co-creators of "Tony n' Tina's Wedding." I think he played Tony for about 10 years. I had been taking my kids to auditions their whole lives because they're actors, but I never dreamed I'd do something like this. But when you have nothing to lose, why not give it a shot, right? I didn't even have a resume to bring in for the audition.
Weigel: What did you do?
Godshaw: I brought in a picture of myself that was 30 years old and told them "I've been a stay-at-home mom -- and now the kids are out of the house." They had me audition for the part of Johnny Boy's wife, who is really conservative and mean. Her first line is "You junkyard bitch!" when she's yelling at this veteran porn star for flirting with her husband. I called my son and asked him to help me with the lines and give me some coaching because I've never taken an acting class. He said, "Mom, improv is the hardest job for an actor!" And I thought, "Oh great!"
Weigel: When did you find out you got the part?
Godshaw: I was waiting for a flight at the airport to go and visit my kids and the director called and asked me to come in for a callback. I was shocked. I called my son and told him I would be canceling my trip and he just couldn't believe it. I've never done anything like this in my life.
Weigel: Were you less nervous for the callback?
Godshaw: I had enough guts to ask them if I could read for the part of the porn star instead of the crabby wife. I figured, if I'm gonna do this, then I'm gonna DO this!
Weigel: What did they say?
Godshaw: They handed me the script for the role of Jamie James -- which was the porn star. There I was in my white conservative blouse trying to be seductive. It was hilarious. But I just came out of my shell, and had a blast. I sat on one of the producer's laps and said, "Well it seems someone's happy to see me." They liked that I wasn't afraid to have fun with it.
Weigel: How's the show going now?
Godshaw: Everyone I'm working with has done lots of things -- a third of them were in "Tony n' Tina's Wedding" -- and others are veterans, so I get there for rehearsal and they're all doing these warm-up exercises and I'm thinking, "What did I get myself into?" Opening night I was a nervous wreck. I still worry I'm going to foget my lines. But now I just love watching people have so much fun.
Weigel: Do you ever meet some resistance from the people you choose to seduce during the show?
Godshaw: I was worried some men might be inappropriate, but that hasn't been the case at all. My husband was laughing so hard when I started sitting on the lap of a really conservative guy. If anything, they freeze up. But one man did let me put his wife's lipstick on him. Some of the wives are less than friendly, though.
Weigel: How much longer does the show run?
Godshaw: We are confirmed for every Saturday night in January, and we're waiting to hear if it's going to be extended into Febraury.
Weigel: So is this the beginning of a new career path for you?
Godshaw: Maybe -- I haven't had this much fun since college! I might have to keep the momentum going!
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