Meet the Artist: Jacqueline Libby

Photo by John C. Hawthorne, Courtesy of UArts/Pig Iron

Photo by John C. Hawthorne, Courtesy of UArts/Pig Iron

Our series dedicated to meeting the artists and collaborators of Mother/Daughter, continues with EBP founder Lauren Leonard (LL) interviewing theatre artist Jacqueline Libby (JL).

Jacqueline is a theatre artist, creator, actor, collaborator, and mover who enjoys exploring the extremes on stage: stillness vs. movement; emotional vs. detached; silly vs. serious. An Upstate New Yorker now based in Philadelphia, Jacqueline is currently completing a Master of Fine Arts in Devised Performance at the University of the Arts through the Pig Iron Theatre Company.

LL: What brought you to Philadelphia?

JL: I grew up in Upstate New York, surrounded by music and the arts. Music runs in my family. My grandmother was a pianist, my mother a cellist. Growing up in that world, surrounded by creativity, it only made sense that I developed a passion for theatre that couldn’t be dissuaded. I lived in Buffalo during my undergrad, and it wasn’t until my senior year there where I realized that I wasn’t done with formal training and wanted to expand my horizons. Philadelphia has an amazing arts community, from their iconic DIY music scene, to their huge support for new and exciting works of made sense to come here.

LL: You’re pursuing an MFA in Devised Performance through the University of the Arts and Pig Iron Theatre Company. For the uninitiated, tell us about Pig Iron and the concept of “devised performance.”

JL: The Pig Iron Theatre Company is a Philadelphia-based company who specializes in creating ensemble-devised works that defies traditional theatre designations. Devised performance is a way of creating theatre through collaboration. The script is written by the ensemble as the play is being created, usually through improvisatory work.  Instead of the traditional structure, with a designated playwright, director, and actors all doing their own separate jobs, the ensemble takes on all the roles. It is one of my favorite ways to work because, if you can get people with varying aesthetics to agree on something, well, that's when you know the thing is hot; that there's something something special about it.  I would not be able to come up with those ideas just by myself; it takes an ensemble. Pig Iron uses this collaborative effort to develop their own productions, usually with a guest collaborator. They also opened a school (recently collaborating with UArts) to train the next generation of theatre artists in this method.

LL: What was it about this particular MFA program that felt like the best fit for you?

JL: The summer going into my senior year of undergrad I trained with Make Trouble in Suzuki, Viewpoints, and ensemble creation and fell in love with that style of work.I was invited to addition with Pig Iron in Philly and knew immediately that this was where I was going to end up. Pig Iron’s program is incredibly unique; one of the only like it in the country that grants an MFA. I wanted a graduate program that would fill in gaps in my training with Pig Iron, I'm studying things I never knew existed! In my first year I trained in extensively in neutral mask, character masks, and creating imaginary spaces without sets. In the second year we'll dive further into commedia, cabaret, and grotesque. The curriculum is rigorous, expansive, and intense! It has challenged and dared me to leap into the unknown. 

LL: Is this your first time performing as part of the Fringe Festival? 

JL: This is my first time performing as part of Fringe! I am very excited for this opportunity.

LL: What drew you to Mother/Daughter?

JL: As a theatre artist I love telling stories. Everyone has a unique and complicated one about their relationship with their parents, especially their mothers. That relationship is ever-changing. I loved the concept of exploring a sampling of these relationships and sharing them with an audience. I think we're going to make them laugh, cry, and nod their heads in understanding.

LL: What aspect of your character to you most identify with?

JL: She’s dramatic. She likes to joke around but also can be a bit reflective, which I identify with. I'm always looking at my past and trying to learn from it. I am also rather dramatic!

LL: At our first rehearsal, you mentioned a love for your mom. Care to shout her out?

JL: Of course! My mother is an extremely talented musician and a great mother! She has given me my work ethic, my drive, my humor, my musicality, and is always supporting me no matter how far I move from home. Love to her always.

LL: Is there a show you’re most looking forward to seeing at this year’s Festival?

JL: It’s so hard to choose! Probably The Accountant by Trey Lyford, or Fly Eagles Fly by Tribe of Fools.

LL: Where can audiences see you after Fringe? What’s next for you?

JL:  I am honored to be part of Yael Bartana's Bury Our Weapons, Not Our Bodies with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It involves a procession throughout Philly, a burial of weapons, and eulogies about war, peace, and democracy. Also, my cohort has our first (free) showing of the year at the Pig Iron Theatre School, October 31st & November 1st, so you can all see what this devised performance thing is all about!

Mother/Daughter Sept 15 8pm & Sept 16, 2pm, Philly PACK (233 Federal)