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Alice Jamal: Sassafras’ Dominant Force

Interview by Jen Bush

Alice Jamal plays Mistress Chelsea in Sassafras & The Captain.  She caught the acting bug early in life.  “This all started with countless one-woman retellings of High School Music which I would subject my family to and if they didn’t succumb my stuffed animals were my back up audience.”  Her school experience informed her future on the stage. “Throughout my time at school I continued to act and sing and generally prance around on stage and each show was euphoric to me and I knew that there was absolutely nothing else in this world that I wanted to do.”  Through her craft she seeks to deeply connect to her audience.   “As I got older, I also started to realize and appreciate how clearly art reflects life – I feel it provides a mirror to us – and the idea that my storytelling could impact just one person in the audience and resonate deeply with them or make them question what they thought they knew is such a beautiful and poignant thing. We truly are all so interconnected and my aim as an artist is to shine a light on that connectivity and collectivity of human beings.”

Sarah Elisabeth Brown’s send-up of S&M mores, Sassafras & The Captain, is revived as part of the 2022 Fresh Fruit “Return to Live” Theatre Festival. Three performance run: Thursday May 5 @ 6:00 p.m.; Friday, May 6 @ 8:45 p.m.; Sunday, May 8 @ 1:00 p.m.; at The WILD PROJECT, 195 East 3rd Street, NYC. For further info: freshfruitfestival.com  

When Sassafras, a role-playing submissive femme dyke, decides she wants to become a top, she upends her steady relationship with teddy-bear butch Captain Lou, and brings an old flame, the roguishly handsome boundary-pushing masochist Micky Penny, into the mix for an experiment in non-monogamy. Chaos ensues as Sassafras practices new skills of dominance, faces competition from the unassuming southern belle 50’s housewife next door, and gets schooled by the supreme Goddess of been-there-done-that, Mistress Chelsea. Can this young couple grow their love big enough to include these new elements? Or will they be shipwrecked on the sea of dyke drama? It remains – to be seen! 

Sarah Brown’s uproarious play has been reworked for this new production. Sassafras was made into the award-winning 2004 film, Mango Kiss 

I had a chat with Alice Jamal to find out about her career and this exciting project she’s a part of.

What drew you to this project?

A friend of mine shared it with me and immediately I knew this was exactly the type of project that I gravitate towards as it holds space for the frolicsome and the sincere. It is also very unique to me as an actor as I have never had the pleasure of working with such wonderfully frisky and fun material before.

What is your creative process?

It always starts with me buying a new notebook – hopefully with a very cute cover – and from there creating my character’s whole life through vision boards, mind-maps, Spotify playlists, scrap booking. I also refer back to my training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and do my Uta Hagen questions, some animal work etc. Combining the creative with the academic for me crafts a fully fleshed out, realized and truthful character.

Do you find a sense of added responsibility when dealing with plays that tackle serious, mature, or timely subject matter?

Absolutely, especially as I am entering this space in a position of privilege and it is paramount that I acknowledge that. I feel an immense sense of gratitude to be included in this project and my role as an actor, an ally and a human is to share and hold space for a story like this that celebrates the joy of queer love. Especially as we are living through horrendous set backs to our progressions for LGBTQIA+ rights with the recent signing of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill which bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. This bill further demonizes and perpetuates harmful narratives against LGBTQIA+ folks. It is vital that we, especially those of us who hold privilege, do anything and everything we can to fight against this. I believe the creative world is a beautiful place to start flipping that narrative and opening doors for those who deserve love, respect and joy.

What’s so good about off-off Broadway/indie theatre?

Off-off Broadway and indie theatre is where I feel creative, eccentric and thought provoking theatre lives and breathes. It is the dynamic and vivacious core of emerging projects which is just simply so exciting. It’s that energy that makes it so good!

It’s obvious the world is steadily reopening. What do you feel is different now than before pandemic? Another thought: what should be different now than before pandemic?

This ties in to both thoughts but I feel we have seen so much change in the world throughout the course of the pandemic. So many social justice issues were finally brought to light and it is up to us, the collective, to do what we can to restructure and rebuild antiquated and harmful systems to allow space for inclusivity, equity and justice. I know the phrase ‘new normal’ was at first almost causing a sour taste in my mouth because I had no idea what to anticipate, the change was frankly a little terrifying! However, as the world is steadily reopening this ‘new normal’ has opened a pathway of progression in many aspects. We still have a long way to go but I truly believe the fire lit inside of us during the pandemic and most pandemic is going to pave a way forward.

What’s next for you?

I am really fortunate to be working on some short films alongside this project which is incredibly exciting! In general, I am hoping to establish myself as an actor over here in the US! If you would like to stay updated with me, my social media and websites are the best place to look; I always want to stay connected with creative hearts and brains!

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