Do you remember your first impressions of some of your closest friends? To 11 year old me, Jaya was just a red-cheeked kid with a wide smile, a floppy fringe and an overly enthusiastic approach to dance. Over the past 7 years, from playing citizens of Oz in The Wiz together to becoming inseparable dance partners, I’ve watched him evolve into a ridiculously talented performer with an incredible understanding of stage presence. Considering he’ll be moving up in the world onto stages far bigger than UQ’s Schonnel Theatre or Gympie’s Heritage Theatre, I thought I’d better interview him now, before he’s so overcome by bright stage lights he forgets my name. So, without further ado, meet Jaya:
Who are you and what do you do?
My name’s Jaya Stephen Fisher-Smith, I’m 16 and I’m a musical theatre practitioner.
When did you realise musical theatre was your calling?
(My) first lesson of Added Attraction (an advanced performance group) at Fame Theatre Company in grade five. My dance teacher, Janet, was just really encouraging and for me, her dance moves were pretty revolutionary compared to the dancing (I’d done) in past years. All the tutors were just so focused on personal experience, making sure we all got enough attention and were enjoying ourselves. And they pushed us so much, which I loved. They gave us so much to work with and it was all so entertaining to us that we fell head over heels in love with it- when I say we, I mean the people in the group with me. Whether they continued the profession I have no clue, but right there and then we didn’t want to do anything else with our lives.
What’s your dream role and why?
Erm, there’s so many musicals and roles I don’t really care who I play. But the first one that popped into my head, not necessarily my favourite, is Pippin. I’ve always dreamed of playing Pippin because he’s a character I can relate to. He’s gotta find his place in the world and his songs are mesmerizing, as well as the rest of the show. Or, Leading Player from Pippin, because, and excuse my inferior language, but the character is really COOL.
What are the pros & cons of being a performer in Australia?
Con: THAT IT’S SO FUCKING MAINSTREAM! You have to look and sound a certain way to get jobs (grr).
Pros: … it’s getting there?
If a thousand young performers were listening to you right now, what advice would you give them?
Performance is a natural remedy.
Also, make sure you’re comfy. It’s like being in a mattress store. You’re lying on loads of different beds, they aren’t really working for you. Some may work and you could have a little nap and that’s fine. But there’s a couple of beds, that when you lie on them, you fall into the deepest sleep, and don’t wake up for days. And when you do, you feel reborn. That’s what Musical Theatre is to me, and that may be what it is to you, or any other profession. And you don’t just have to choose one bed, you go through so many beds in your life. You keep going back to the store to buy a new bed when one is broken or you don’t like it anymore.
The mattress store will always be there and is always open to you. So my advice to you, is take your time browsing the store. Feeling all the fabrics and mattresses, and when you lie on one you think you might like, buy it, because you can always come back for another.
Jaya’s Top 3 Showtunes:
1. Magic To Do – Pippin
2. Cry For Me – Jersey Boys
3. No One Is Alone – Into the Woods