30 Questions with DanielDaniel answers to some "getting to know you" questions for his fans. He also had an interview regarding DWT Big River production, and you can read it in Light To Shine: Unofficial Fan Site for the Deaf West Production of Big River. Enjoy!
1. What's your real name?
Daniel Jenkins. When I was 7 or so, I met this really impressive dude named Harper, so my folks let me add it as a middle name. But it's not on my birth certificate or anything.
2. Do you go by Daniel H. Jenkins or Daniel Jenkins now? (if you dropped the middle initial, could you tell us the reason why?)
I had to amend my name somehow when I joined SAG, so I went with an initial. After a while, they didn't require that anymore, so I dropped it. Sounded too snooty anyway.
3. Do you remember your first experience in a theatre as an audience? How old were you, which show and what do you remember about it?
My dad is an actor, so I grew up watching him. Hamlet, Cyrano, you name it. I think the first time I realized how powerful the theater could be, I was about 8 years old. Dad was McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The crowd leapt to its feet at the end and I couldn't move. I was just a mess of tears - they just electrocuted my dad! But I was really struck at how profound and unfair it seemed.
4. What was your first acting role? Could you share with us about your experience?
I guess high school was my first exposure to getting on the stage myself. I also acted in community theatre around the same time. Proteus in Two Gentlemen of Verona. Hair down to the middle of my back and no idea what I was doing. The girl playing opposite me went to my school and was so far above me on the social ladder, I couldn't believe I was in the same room with her, much less kissing her in front of people!
My teachers at school were my first mentors outside the home. Becky Brunsman and Suzanne Grote. We did school musicals and they were just so much fun. El Gallo in The Fantastics, the Scarecrow in The Wiz, Snoopy in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Will in Oklahoma. I owe those gals my career.
5. When did you decide that you want to have a career in the theatre?
Not really until after high school. I was interested in a lot of things, I loved school and academia, but when I looked at colleges, none of them really grabbed me. So I decided to audition for the apprentice program at Actors Theatre of Louisville to see where that would take me.
6. What did you first audition for (paying role)?
After my apprentice year at ATL, I was invited to join the company for the following year. I was on cloud nine! So I guess the work I did throughout that year was my first real audition.
7. What was your first paying role? (in a regional theatre and/or professional theatre)
Believe it or not, my first paying gig was going down the Mississippi on a RAFT, putting up a tent and doing an original musical/revue for the little towns along the river. We even got to play a couple of prisons. I was 16 - what an education!
8. From which show (play/musical) did you get an impact the most and why?
It's hard to narrow it down to one for me. I think my experience at Louisville was the most influential. I was around so many gifted actors and writers. I fell in love completely with new work and play development and that has lasted to this day.
9. Did you ever take any singing, dancing and acting lessons? Do you still take any lessons?
I've sung since I was a kid - my folks sang and played a lot - but I can't claim to be classically trained. I've taken voice off and on, usually associated with a project and a sound I'm trying to achieve. As for dancing - my poor choreographers have had to struggle with me from show to show. I enjoy dancing very much - but it is hardly a natural gift! I studied acting at ATL and took classes when I moved to NY at EST.
10. How did you get the role for Huck in the original Big River production which was your Broadway debut?
I auditioned! Actually I auditioned for a previous production of the show in La Jolla - and didn't get it. So I thought when I went in again in NY, I didn't have much of a chance.
11. Could you share your experience in the original Big River production?
It was a great time. The actors were all so fantastic - I'm in touch with many of them to this day. (Gordon Connell, who played Twain lives on my block!) We all felt the material was special and the message was important, but we thought we were the hick underdogs. It was such a gift to be embraced by the theater community the way we were.
12. How was it to perform with your father (Ken Jenkins) in the show? Did you ever perform with him after that?
It was so funny that we were doing this show - on Broadway - as our first show together. It was just a blast. It was a really nice way for it to happen, too. I was already there for 6 months, so I kind of supported him as he crammed the role in as you do when you replace. I admired him so much, it was nice to be able to be there for him.
After that we did work together a few times. We even wrote a piece together, Feast Here Tonight. Dad wrote the stories and I did the music and lyrics.
13. Could you tell us your experience in "Big"? Did you go to the national tour with it?
I didn't go on tour with it, but I saw the tour and felt they addressed some things in the writing and in the production that worked much better.
I had a wonderful time working on that piece. Being a kid at heart was no real stretch for me! C'mon - my research was eating pizza and playing video games with the kids from the show - this was work? I loved working with Susan Stroman, and Mike Okrent was just the dearest, funniest man on the planet. We all still miss him.
14. What kind of show and/or project would you like to perform with your father in the future?
I think I'd like to write something with him again. He's such a gifted storyteller and I loved writing tunes to fulfill a need in a show. It was a terrific challenge.
15. What kind of project(s) would you like to be involved in in the future?
Play development is still my favorite. I wouldn't be surprised if I start drifting toward directing more. I just really love the process of finding a piece.
16. Do you have any favorite composers, lyricists, and playwrights?
Russell Davis is probably my favorite living author. He's a little known writer who is based in Philadelphia and his work is stunning. The unusual thing about his plays are how filled they are with love. Corny, I know, but there is a real redemptive power to his work that we all yearn for when we go to the theater.
I'm a huge Randy Newman fan. I did a show using his music and I hope to get it up again. Go buy his music - it'll make you laugh and blow you away with its beauty. He's bizarrely gifted.
17. We know life on the tour can be tough but at the same time fun. Among the cities that you visit, where did you enjoy the most, and why? (except Japan)
I had a really great time in San Francisco. I have a pretty good time wherever I go, but that was special. It was our first stop, so we were all getting to do things together and explore - Yosemite, Golden Gate Park, Muir Woods. It's just a gorgeous part of the country.
18. You stayed in Japan for a month for the Tokyo engagement. What were the most memorable things you did while you were in Japan?
Well, I climbed Mt. Fuji in the off season. Unbelievable. It was one of the rare days when it didn't rain, and the sunset and sunrise were spectacular. The Bunraku performance was mesmerizing. The most memorable thing about Japan is the people. They are so genuine and kind. I miss them all!!!
19. Where is your favorite place(s) in Japan? Did you pick up any Japanese language?
I really loved The Kannon Temple in Kamakura. And Nara. And Nikko. And the fish market was remarkable - I didn't want to leave.
20. What would be the most interesting (or wacky) thing you did during your stay in Japan?
I think standing in the Tokyo Dome with my two boys as the crowd chanted constantly was a real mind blow. And then to watch my guys start chanting along as best they could - how great is that?
21. What's your favorite dish you tried in Japan for the first time? What's your least favorite that you don't want to touch again?
I tried horse meat sashimi. Really quite good. As was almost everything I ate in Japan. The food was one of my favorite things about the journey.
Not a huge fan of the uni. Sea urchin. I had it a couple of times and it was definitely better the second time - sweeter, less briny - but I think I've had enough, thank you!
22. Is there a superstitious thing you do before going on the stage? Do you have any certain ritual you'd do prior to starting your performance?
Sure, but I'm too superstitious to tell you what it is! I do lots of vocal warm ups and stretching and stuff - and a little personal voodoo now and then.
23. What do you do when you are not working in a production? What's your hobby?
I'm a hobby boy. I love to cook. So much. I love to fix stuff around the house, play with my boys, walk and window shop with my wife, do origami, play music. I often obsess on something and can't stop for a while - like origami, than drop it and come back to it later.
24. What kind of musical instruments can you play? Have you ever composed any musical score or a song?
I play a lot of instruments badly. I grew up on a farm, so I had time to kill. I can hack at the piano, guitar, banjo, fiddle, harmonica, mandolin, bass, dulcimer, whatever - I like to get nice sounds out of them, but I'm not a great "player".
I've written tunes since I was quite young. Silly stuff. I wrote right along - but when kids came, my spare time got kind of gobbled up - I need to get back to it some time.
25. What kind of show (musical or play) makes you get excited? Have you seen such show(s) lately?
I usually like things that are a little off the beaten path. I enjoy going to big shows too, but it is often the smaller piece in some hovel of a place that sticks with me. I saw a Trojan Women in Seattle that I'll never forget. Chuck Mee adapted it and the company was unbelievable.
26. Were you in NYC when 9-11 happened? How has the incident affected you?
Wow. Yes, I was here. I'm a parent now, so a lot of how I think about the world has changed as a result. That event just stripped me of a certain innocence that I clung to. And I think of the kind of world my kids are growing into. And I want it to change. I want to think that it's possible.
27. If you have to play a role in Les Miserables (male or female and no age limit), which character would you like to perform?
Are you ready? I've never seen the show! I'm actually quite the musical theater idiot.
28. If you have to play a role in CATS (male or female and no age limit), which character would you like to perform?
Ummm, see above.
29. If you have to play a role in The Phantom of The Opera (male or female and no age limit), which character would you like to perform?
I actually did see that one. Ummm, didn't like it so much. I think I'd like to play the costume designer for the clothes at the beginning of the second act - the masquerade ball scene.
30. Could you give a message to your dedicated fans?
I am so flattered that you have read down this far. I am truly humbled and honored by your interest. I feel so fortunate to get to do what I do - I hope you all get to reach for your bliss and grab ahold! Many, many thanks!!
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