Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Q-And-A with Justin Lemieux

Justin Lemieux  [credit - Jordan Fraker]

Guest Contributor Grant Knutson of Minion Productions offers a brief Q-and-A with solo performer Justin Lemieux.

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North Texas based actor and solo performer Justin Lemieux won "Best Emerging Actor" for his show Warm Soda at United Solo in 2017. He is at work on his newest work Girl Dad, which he is set to premiere at the 2019 Dallas Solo Fest. Here we get to know a bit more about Justin and his experience with solo performance.

Q: Please give us a brief bio, where you are from and how you started in theatre/performance?

A: I grew up in Arizona, but came to Texas for undergrad at the University of Dallas and settled here for good in 2008. I've been performing in plays since junior high. I got cast in a play at school unexpectedly and then just kept doing it.

Q: What event or desire brought you specifically into the world of solo performance?

A: In high school, I did a lot of speech and debate, which is basically solo performance, I just didn't realize it yet. Many years later in grad school, I took a solo performance class and it really appealed to me because all of the old muscle memory of speech and debate came back to me. It felt like a really comfortable place where I could explore the thoughts I was having in a way that was both challenging and rewarding.

Q: Could you tell us about some of your particular kind of solo work?

A: My work is very straightforward and autobiographical. I perform in the same style as Spalding Gray and Mike Daisey (though certainly not at their level), where I simply sit at a table and talk to the audience. I tend to think that there is not much interesting about me or my background, so I don't have a single big event to talk about. Instead, I try to find a question from my memory or a problem that's bothering me that I don't have the answer for and try to figure out why I don't know. 

Q: Could you tell us about some of your current show Girl Dad?

A: Girl Dad is my exploration of understanding my existence in the female-dominated world of my family when I came from the opposite of that. I can't presume to know what it is like to be female, so I'm trying to figure out how I've interacted with women in my life and how, if at all, having daughters has changed that.

Justin Lemieux in his show Warm Soda

Q: What is your favorite thing about doing this work?

A: I enjoy having the creative freedom to explore the ideas and stories that I find meaningful. 

Q: What inspires you to keep going and how do you keep yourself motivated?

A: I am filled with an endless amount of questions that I have no answers for. It's interesting to me to have the opportunity to ask those questions with an audience. I also hope that the questions are ones that the audience will see themselves in so that it feels more like a collective journey. Especially in memory pieces I think there is something everyone can take away from the story. Everyone brings their own memories into the room.

Q: What is your approach to the development process when putting together a new project? Do you create a lot on stage, improvising? Draft after draft of scripts? Tape or video record? Hold readings? Go to a mountain top?

A: I journal and try to explore seemingly insignificant memories and after a while, I see which of those stories prompt me to keep exploring. Eventually, I try to figure out if there is a question I'm trying to answer. 

Q: Who are some of your influences or people that inspire you?

A: Obviously, Spalding Gray and Mike Daisey, stylistically. But truly, anyone who does autobiographical work. Even if the form is different, I love to see how stories can be told in different ways. 

Justin in Girl Dad

Q: Do you have a favorite performance, festival or venue you'd like to tell us about?

A: I am participating in the Dallas Solo Fest in June. It's a really cool coincidence that the Dallas Solo Fest is being held at Theatre Three's Theatre Too. Theatre Three has been a really generous partner to the Dallas theater community in opening up their studio space to new work and local performers. In 2017, they gave me the space to workshop my first solo play, Warm Soda, before we took it to the United Solo Fest in New York. That performance was instrumental in giving me the feeling of having it on its feet and in front of a large crowd. That allowed me to make adjustments before the festival. I'm glad to be back in this space again with a new play. 

Q: How do you bridge the gap between the creative and the business side of solo theatre?

A: I really try to just focus on the creative side. This probably does not do me any good. But I try to focus on the work and hopefully, make it as good as possible and let the business side follow. My wife, Katy, acts as my producer and handles most of the business side of things. This is our third time doing this and we have it down to a pretty good system, I think.

Q: Any advice for some aspiring artist just starting out in solo performance?

A: Start doing it and don't worry if it's good. Doing it at all will help define what you want to say and how effectively you are saying it.

Q: What do you see yourself as a solo performer in the future?

A: I hope to continue to create new monologues and find new opportunities for the ones I've already created.

Q: Shout outs or links?

(My website just recently got a snazzy update, so, please, check it out)

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