I am Jennymarie Jemison, an actress in Austin, Texas. In a former life, I was a graphic designer at Rockstar Games in New York City. It was all a design job could be – the work was gratifying, very high profile, random kids thought I was really cool, the talent on the design team was unbelievable, and my best friends worked there too. Unfortunately, there were also negative aspects that sometimes made employees drink until they were blind and punching each other in the face for fun, just to feel something, anything. These conditions have been well documented but, legally, ahem, I’m not allowed to discuss them further.
One day on the subway, feeling this nagging, persistant feeling like my soul was crying, I saw a girl reading a script and I thought to myself “O right! That was the dream I once had too.” I had been an actor all through my youth. The “Should-I-choose-Art or should-I-choose-Theatre” college major dilemma had me worried that choosing acting meant choosing not to be able to feed myself anything other than the proverbial ramen noodles, so I went the practical route. (More about this in the story section here. ) I graduated with a degree in creative advertising and began working in the video game industry in Dallas, which eventually led me to that high profile job in New York City that I was now leaving.
After some soul searching parsed with equal quantities of despair, optimism, and bong hits, I decided to STUDY ACTING. I attended Atlantic Theatre Company’s acting school, founded by David Mamet and William H. Macy. After completing the program I started auditioning. My friend at a casting agency got me some meetings with a couple of big talent agencies and I started going out on commerical auditions freelance. After I booked a big national commercial for Radioshack, I was signed by Cunningham, Escott, Slevin and Doherty. I became a semi-successful commercial actress, appearing in lots of national tv and print spots and basically supporting myself financially with acting jobs, karaoke hosting, cat nannying, and freelance design work. I wanted to be doing film and theatre but NYC is a cruel mistress and told me “all in due time.” Still, I was proud of myself. I was PURSUING MY DELAYED DREAM.
Then I got a phone call. It was B. A guy that I had known years earlier as a friend and co-worker at Godgames, the videogame company I’d worked at in Dallas. We had lots of shall we say meaningful eye contact but we were both always with other people and had never dated. He was calling to ask if I had a brunette doppelgänger that did Radioshack commercials. When he’d last seen me, I had a blonde bob and was not acting (or had ever told him that I had those aspirations). He was pretty sure he’d heard someone with my voice in a banner ad that he’d refreshed fifty times trying to see again for sure, but the ad didn’t appear again. No one else I know saw that ad online, and I never got paid for online usage. The ad was all over television but B never saw it because he did not own a tv. I’m pretty sure there was some divine intervention involved.
Oddly enough, we were both single at the time of this call. He was living in Austin. In the interest of pursuing more delayed dreams, I invited him to come visit me in New York. He agreed. A flight was booked. And then my heart filled with dread and panic. What if he was different? What if WE were different? What if he was wearing sandals and socks at the same time? A lot could go wrong. All my fears were set to rest though when my doorbell rang and I saw his sweet face through my peephole. Still seriously dreamy. Six months later we were still going strong. Make no mistake though, long distance is a bitch people. Then, in one of the all time most romantic moments in the history of the world, he proposed.
This is why I am in Austin.
We live out in the country and while we are not yet married, we are the parents of one polar bear/wolf hybrid, one little red dog with endearing wormlike qualities, and one slightly bitchy grey cat. I now have a garden instead of a fire escape. And there’s this big blue Texas sky thing which I’m telling you, is slightly ridiculous.
I thought it would be hard to give up acting but I was prepared to scale it down a little. Truth be told, I was tired of only auditioning for commercials. I was not tired of the union paychecks but hey, we can’t have it all, right? Huge paychecks for a half day’s work could not trump LOVE, right? I was ready for the indie filmmaking I’d heard about taking place in Austin. I was shocked to discover that there was a lot more than that going on here. I have a great agent, Heather Collier, I work all the time (usually for next-to-free), and the theatre going on here is more gratifying than anything I could have imagined. I am routinely inspired by people that I also call my friends. There is a wonderful community here and it makes me feel all fuzzy inside being a part of it. The old, cynical New York me would give me a hard eye roll for that last sentence.
But you know, I’ve never been so lucky.
This blog is my attempt to record some of the artistic life I’m living here. Its yours to enjoy or ignore. Or, if you are someone who may be considering casting me, its a look inside my brain. I hope what you find there entertains you.
So not all dreams come true. As of the beginning of 2009, B and are no longer engaged, dating, or living together. We are, as crazy as it sounds, still working together. Quite well actually. The red dog and grey cat and I moved into our own little apartment. We aren’t going back to New York. The true love that emerged from our time together, may well have been for this city and the friends and artists that I’ve met here. I am now living a creative life on my own terms, which is both more difficult and much easier, at the same time. The work we do on ourselves, the choices we make, never end. They shape the selves we become. Someone said that life is about change. Sometimes its painful, sometimes its beautiful. Frequently its both. This is the sphere I am operating within now. Following my whims, indulging my dreams, not lingering in regret, embracing what life presents to me and spinning wildly, but deliberately, into my own destiny.