Jennifer Elizabeth Smith is an amazing actress who’s playing Portia in the upcoming show “Something Rotten”. It’s on at the Carson Center on March 25. She loves performing in traveling shows, but she sure misses her Yorkie. This hiker is looking for recommendations for the best pancakes to eat while in Paducah. iMeet this traveling performer who is living her dream!
Welcome to iMeet, Jennifer. Tell us about yourself...
I was born and raised in Florham Park, New Jersey, and spent most of my childhood dragging my parents to every community theater show within a 50-mile radius. No one in my family sings or performs, so it was a surprise when I took such a liking to musical theatre - and when we realized I could sing!
I went on to perform in community theater shows during middle school and started training seriously in high school. I was fortunate enough to go to college for musical theatre (young Jennifer's dream) at the Boston Conservatory - earning a Bachelor's in Fine Arts.
We hear you have a precious fur baby...
I have a six-year-old, five-pound Yorkie named Pebbles, and she is the queen of my life. She loves music, and will actually sing with me sometimes! I've been away from her for five months now while on the road, and I miss her so much. Sometimes I think it's the hardest part of the tour!
Tell us about your journey into the entertainment industry...
I knew really early on that I wanted to perform for a living. When I saw my first musical, Fiddler on the Roof, at a community theater in my hometown, I fell in love, and I asked my parents to take me back four more times! I have good parent - they did take me every night.
We all kind of knew then that I had found something that really resonated with me. I've been studying voice and acting for fifteen years now and moved to New York as soon as I graduated from college to start auditioning.
How did you get your break into the cast of Broadway shows?
Once I finished university, I spent the first year auditioning and I got a couple acting jobs here and there - but man, New York is hard! I think I've been rejected from about 500 shows now.
I was a performer on a cruise ship for a couple of years, and it was amazing. I traveled to Alaska, Hawaii and Bora Bora, all while getting paid! But ultimately, I did really miss acting. I made it my goal after that job to hold out for a real musical.
It ended up being almost a full year of not working. But, if you turn down things you're not super excited about, you'll be available for the things that you *will* be really excited about! And that's exactly what happened with this show!
You are playing Portia in "Something Rotten"...how has your experience been so far?
This is a little cheesy, but it's a dream come true. Every day I put on a gorgeous blonde wig and play this little poetry nerd who is fearlessly weird. I think younger Jenn would cry if she knew this was going to happen!
Portia is a Puritan girl who secretly loves poetry and Shakespeare, despite the fact that poetry is forbidden in her house. She bumps into Nigel Bottom, a poet, and after reading one of his sonnets, falls in love with him. He turns out to be just as much of a geek as she is, and together they help each other navigate their problems by staying true to their own weird little hearts. I love Portia because she is able to stay true to who she is no matter what.
What other shows have you been in? Do you always audition for traveling shows?
I did a production of SWING! last year, and that is probably my favorite of the shows I've done - besides "Something Rotten." I don't only audition for traveling shows, but traveling shows are definitely my favorite.
What's your greatest accomplishment so far in this industry? What has been your favorite performance?
Honestly, Something Rotten! Not just because it's a great job in the industry, I think it's the biggest accomplishment to get to do exactly what you want to be doing everyday - whatever that looks like. For me, I couldn't imagine a more fun job than sharing two and a half hours of musical comedy with the country.
What other cities have you visited so far?
Detroit, Madison, Milwaukee, Burlington, Tuscon, Louisville, and San Jose - to name a few! We've definitely visited over 50 cities now since we started tour.
Do you get to do any site-seeing when visiting different cities? Any highlights so far?
Yes! We had a really great time exploring San Francisco, visiting Alcatraz and the John Muir Woods National Monument. We also got to go on some really beautiful hikes in Tuscon - we were not prepared for how beautiful that place is.
Tell me about a typical day in your life...
If it's a travel day, the day will begin with an 8 am bus ride to our next city, stopping after a few hours at a Walmart or Applebee’s that's on the way. When we arrive at the hotel, we usually have about an hour and a half to drop off our things and have a little personal time. I usually use that time to call my girlfriend or find a local coffee shop in whatever city we are in.
Then we head over to the theater for an orientation so we know where everything is. The female cast members put their hair in pin curls, and then we put mics on for soundcheck. We have about an hour for dinner, which is prime exploring time, and then come back to get ready for the show.
Once the show is over, I usually call my girlfriend and then hang out with my friends in the cast. If our days are not travel days, we skip the bus and the soundcheck, and we get to explore all day before the show.
What's the best part of your job? What's the hardest?
The best part of the job is giving this show to audiences. I know that every single person will (hopefully) leave the theater that night happier, and that is such a privilege. Whenever I would be really down in New York, I would buy a discount ticket to a Broadway show, because I knew that would be the perfect medicine. I hope there are people at our shows feeling the same way, and that we do our job and make their hearts a little more full.
The hardest part of the job is being away from my friends, my family, and of course my girlfriend, who lucky for me is a very understanding partner. Long distance relationships can be really rough, but we make it work, and she has actually come to visit me in five cities already.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to hike. If the weather allows, that's my go-to activity when we have a free day. I also try to do some research on cities before we get there, and try to do something unique to where we are. In Louisville, I went ziplining in a cavern, which was really cool, and in Detroit, I visited the Motown Museum, which also was super rad.
You're on the road a lot. Do you eat out in every city? What's your favorite meal?
It is hard not to eat out every meal, but it's totally possible! I try to have two-three days a week where I only eat groceries that live in my lunchbox, and then I let myself live here and there the rest of the week.
My go-to meal when I eat out is pancakes. I have a passion for all breakfast foods, but especially really good pancakes. If anyone reading this has pancake recommendations for Paducah, please let me know, not even kidding, my Instagram handle is @jennsmith810.