By J. Manuel Rivera Cortes
“Jesus Hopped the A Train” rolled into Lehman Oct. 17 thru 20, directed by veteran actor and assistant professor, Jennifer McCabe. “As a director I get everything from my actors,” she said. “I am 100 percent an actor’s director.” Having grown up in the theatre, McCabe explains it is a second family to her, and she brings the strength of that bond to her directing.
McCabe has over 30 years’ experience within theatre. The child of thespians who lacked child care, she began watching her parents’ rehearsals at the age of two.
At 13, she joined their world, and began acting onstage while playing soccer for her school team. The latter would garner her a scholarship to college, where she slowly found that theatre was her love and motivating force. To pursue it professionally she earned an MFA from the Actors Studio Drama School at The New School. After graduation she worked for a majority of the playhouses on Theatre Row, and this motivated her to become an educator.
Junior Shantelle Watkins, theatre major and business minor, said of McCabe’s directing style, “She makes sure we have a full background. Her technique helps us analyze and go deeper.”
Senior Christine D’Onofrio, a theatre major in the Adult Degree Program, said, “She makes us feel safe. She is able to pull things out of us. In this play, the character work is so important, we give meaning to it with Prof. McCabe guidance.” Both agreed that McCabe has brought them and their classmates into the creative process, and made them molders of the drama.
McCabe explained the idea for the production came to her in conversation with Professor Richard DesRochers, Director of the Multimedia and Theatre programs, who encouraged her to direct it for the Fall 2018 semester. For her, the most memorable scene of her most recent play is Act 2, Scene 4. “This scene feels like the final countdown. It is very tense, and every player helps to build that tension.” She hopes that this production sheds light on what it means to take responsibility and on the extent to which we have become desensitized and disillusioned in our society. It addresses the state of the criminal justice system, faith and forgiveness.
McCabe advises anyone interested in pursuing an acting career to know that there are many ways to participate in theatre that will help students to become better actors. “Theatre is collaborative! Therefore, you have to know how to work well with others. Stay educated on the subject and its trends and purpose in society.”