We caught up with Jennifer Jackson, creator of Endurance, one of our Push 2021 commissions.
Q: Tell us a bit about your career to date
Jennifer Jackson: I am a Latinx British-Bolivian performer, theatremaker and Movement Director, with a particular focus on the female body in performance. My work interrogates the ways that womxn and girls use their bodies, my relationship with the UK, and the duality of living between cultures and races.
I graduated from East 15, and have since gone on to work as a performer at The National Theatre, BAC, York Theatre Royal, The Lowry, Bath Theatre Royal, Royal & Derngate, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, and The Harold Pinter (West End). As a movement director I have worked at The Royal Exchange, Young Vic, Paines Plough, Lyric Hammersmith, ATC, Orange Tree Theatre, and NT Studio.
In 2019 I was appointed the Leverhulme Scholar by The Egg (TRB) on their ‘Incubator Programme’, was a ‘Developed With’ artist with The Lowry, and am currently an Evolve artist with Oxford Playhouse 2020/2021. I am an associate of Tangled Feet and Upstart Theatre.
Q: What does selection for Push mean to you?
JJ: I am thrilled to be part of the Push Festival with Endurance. I initially tested the idea at Propel in 2019, so to be able to see the work come to fruition here is really special. As an artist based in Manchester, its so important to be able to make your work where you live, and I feel really proud to be presenting alongside other artist from the area.
Q: How has the last year affected your practice as an artist?
JJ: I have found the last year incredibly challenging. Like most people working in this industry, I lost the best part of a year’s work overnight, and the uncertainty of our futures has been a huge source of stress and worry. Being unable to make live work has felt like having a part of me taken away, and there is the fear that you will forget how to do it! In the middle of the pandemic, I joined the Freelance Task Force, and was sponsored by Actors Touring Company. It allowed me to be able to lobby for the freelance voice, and whilst it was hugely challenging, some incredible work has emerged from that time.
In reality, I have had some time to do some more training, reflect on what I have been doing, and refocus my attention on my work and artistic practice. In the past it has been easy to neglect self-development as the pressures of living in the capitalist age often frame this work as a waste of time. It also worth saying that the lack of resources has meant that the landscape has been more competitive than it ever has been, and this year has been a lot of application writing, interviewing, and dealing with rejections that feel bigger than ever. Trying to keep projects on the boil, even when we cannot rehearse in person, is exhausting. When the opportunities arose to be in performance spaces and rehearsal rooms, it was a mix of joy, trepidation and longing, and I am desperate to get back to it.
Q: What do you hope the audience will take away from your show?
JJ: I make work that is about what it’s like to straddle two cultures, and I love the liveness of the sports spectacle. I want the piece to feel like an event, with the sensation of speed and a racing heart. I hope the audience will go on a journey of transformation with me, that we can suspend time together for a while. I have been battling the question of how do we carry on when things get really hard? How do we do it? I don’t feel strong a lot of the time, but I wanted to make this piece to try and understand all the womxn that have come before me that found the inner resources and resilience to keep going.
Q: What comes next for you after Push?
JJ: I am continuing to work on my larger project called Take Space, which examines the idea that ‘space’ is intimately bound up with power. The project includes the shows Endurance, and the companion piece As we run, we become, a running encounter between myself and a member of the public; Thank Heaven for Little Grrrls, a performance for a cast of eight to 12 year old girls who will build an edifice in a metaphor for an imagined future; Wrestleladswrestle, which features an ensemble of 30 female-identifying participants who are trained to playfight with me; and a series of conversations with academics, sports people and scientists. I am also looking forward to some of the postponed projects from 2020 returning, and I am being positive about this because I so want them to return for all of us.