About Jada Hampton
Class of 2020 | Majors: Theatre Arts
Involvement Outside of Class
How many performances have you been a part of at USI?
I have been a part of six USI Theatre productions including my role as the sassy and brave Ermina Crump in Crumbs from the Table of Joy, the passionate and loving Hermia from a Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as the bright, endearing, and nameless The Girl in Eclipsed (which unfortunately didn’t make it to production due to the pandemic).
I also served as an assistant stage manager and got to work on my dramaturgical capabilities for our student production of Standing On My Knees. I have extreme gratitude and adoration for every single actor, director, designer, faculty and crew members that made the magic of USI Theatre possible. I will certainly never forget it.
Jada as Ermina Crump in Crumbs from the Table of Joy
Have you been able to perform outside of the USI Performance Center? If so, where?
It requires a considerate amount of time to be a theatre major and a part of productions, but I think we all pride ourselves with our ability to create outside of the mainstage. Whether that be writing a script and holding a staged reading, putting together a showcase, or coming together and reading our favorite scripts—I’ve always admired my peers for following those veins of artistry.
I have been able to perform as an actor in selected plays at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), as well as a dancer, puppeteer, and actor at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center. One of my fondest memories is meeting the director of Flock Theatre and getting into audio/voice over work for a very special project concerning slavery and historical figures in New London, Connecticut. It was such a cool opportunity!
What has been your favorite performance to be a part of so far?
It’s so hard to choose just one, because all of them hold a special place in my heart. However, Midsummer Night’s Dream was an absolute delight. I mean, who knew I would be swimming on stage while being restrained by two men? I’ve never been so in tune with my impulses as an actress and it was all invigorated by the caliber of the talent in the show. Every rehearsal was a beautifully fresh discovery into the words of Shakespeare. The number of laughs, surprises, and, ultimately, phenomenal reviews for the show proves that USI Theatre is an incredible force of emerging and rising talent.
What is the title of the current chapter in your life?
Oh, it’s definitely titled, “The Art of Stillness”. Curt Columbus, artistic director of Trinity Repertory Theatre, said that the hardest part about our current circumstance is the sheer amount of patience the universe is willing us to practice with ourselves and each other. I’m the type of person to just “go, go, go”, but I have the same amount of control over my future as everyone else and it’s humbling. I know my hard work and efforts haven’t been in vain, so I’m taking this time to reflect and to love myself in a way that prepares me for the opportunities and dreams that are right around the corner.
What nominations have you received and what awards have you won for your work?
The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival is a nationwide theatre competition for colleges across the eight different regions to recognize talent in performance, playwriting, technical theatre, and other related careers. I have been nominated for the Irene Ryan Scholarship competition twice in my four years, once for Hermia and previously for Ermina. I was able to advance to the semi-finalist round my sophomore year and it’s always been a blast to witness the incredible talent in our region.
Another amazing opportunity is the National Playwriting Program, which chooses six 10-minute plays for hundreds of submissions to showcase at the festival. My play Hip Hop Heaven was one of the six chosen for the regional festival. The opportunity that’s impacted me the most is the ASPIRE program, started by Curt Columbus and Victoria Nolan, of the Yale School of Drama, to diversify the arts administration field by finding and recruiting emerging arts leaders. My first year I was an alternate and this year I was the chosen fellow of 8 across the nation. Already, I have learned so much from my cohort and am excited to meet them in person at the 2021 National Festival. Obviously, KCACTF is an incredible blessing and without the school’s support I would have never been able to experience such growth in my career over my collegiate career.
What is the most challenging part about acting? Writing plays?
The most challenging part of acting is getting out of your own head. Many people have the notion that acting is about “becoming someone else”, but I believe that the character is using the actor as a vessel of truth. Those characters become an embodiment of whoever the actor is, which makes it an incredibly personal experience. It’s hard to follow your gut and your instincts when humans have the tendency to doubt themselves but, to be the best vessel you can be, you have to trust yourself. The same goes for playwriting. I write a sentence and I can question it a thousand times, “Can I hear this being said on stage? Coming out of the lips of my favorite actor? Is it special enough to be on this page”, and the list continues. The most important part is honesty. Honesty is the place whence impulses spring, and if it’s true to the experiences of the characters, it will be true to others as well.
Jada, second from left, performing in Dog in the Manger
What is the best career advice you have ever received?
I was having a crisis once and I was so concerned about not getting into my dream schools, not being prepared to move to New York, and had just a general sense of doubt. Out of impulse, I ended up talking to Forest McClendon and he told me that if I was asking him these questions, someone I barely knew, then I already knew the answer. I know what I wanted, I was just too scared to go for it and he asked, “Do you really want another voice in your head to complicate things? What do you want?”.
That is the best advice I received which, theoretically, was none at all. Like I said, your gut is vital, and I wasn’t listening to it. I’ve followed my gut since then, and it’s not a panacea but it helps to never question if I’m the reason my dreams aren’t accomplished. I’m doing everything I can and the rest is up to factors that are out of my control–and God–which I can accept.
What are your plans for after graduation?
This period of stillness has allowed me to reflect on how much control I thought I had over my future. I didn’t get into those graduate programs, I haven’t heard back from some of those apprenticeships, and I’m probably not moving as fast as I would like. However, I’m still applying and I’m still sending positive energy out into the universe. That “yes” will echo back to me one day, and I’m so excited for it. In the meantime, I am working on my craft, starting my podcast, dancing, and learning everything I can about arts administration. This period of quarantine won’t be productive because I did the most but because I loved the most-my passions, my loved ones, and myself.
What inspired you to pursue this career?
Wow, theatre is everything to me. It’s the beating heart of humanity. It’s how we imprint how we feel and the circumstances of our generation through words and experiences that last forever. My heart was always in it, and I never said no, no matter how many people questioned the stability of the path or the financial risk, I always knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Theatre is a reflection of the human condition in our current and past worlds, so naturally it is also inequitable. Women who look like me should be able to see themselves represented and existing in this medium with the fullness of truth, clarity, and boldness they deserve. My hope is to create a lineage of opportunity behind me, reaching back and helping others fill the gap that exists in our art form. It’s never been about me, nor will it ever me. I just hope the work I do in my life benefits a steady change that outlives us all.
If someone made a play or a movie about your life, what genre would it be? Drama? Romantic comedy? Science fiction? Something totally different?
It would definitely be a serio-comedy. My life is absolutely hilarious! I can’t believe some of the situations that I’ve been in, which is mostly due to my crazy imagination, silliness, and willingness to be free and unapologetic. It has its areas of intensity which have the power to still and humble us all, but its purpose is to be a celebration of life. The roses in between the crack, the streaming light in the darkness, and the burst of laughter in the deafening silence expose the idiosyncrasies and the beauty of living this life. So arm yourselves with tissue and aspirin because you’ll cry hysterically from both human relativity and glorious laughter.
Jada as Ermina Crump in Crumbs from the Table of Joy