There is a quotation that has been attributed to the Irish author, playwright and poet Oscar Wilde and the American playwright and novelist Thornton Wilder: “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”
Jaysen Wright, Beauvoir ’96, always dreamed of making theater the center of his life, because it is what he truly loves. In fact, one of his first plays ever was at Beauvoir — “we did an adaptation of ‘The Day the Wind Changed’ and I played the dad,” he recalls. Throughout high school, Jayson continued acting, and he kept going at Grinnell College. “When I was in college, I assumed that’d be it for my acting career, but during my senior year while I was thinking about what to do next I decided to apply to a few MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) programs for acting,” he explains. He was called back to Indiana University and, after visiting and meeting the faculty, he decided it would be a great fit. “IU really helped me to shape my identity as an artist,” he says. After graduating in 2012, Jayson moved back to D.C. and has been working as a professional actor ever since!
Much of his success, he remarks, stems from his experiences stretching from Beauvoir to IU. “I think that, working backward, my graduate school experience at IU shaped the type of artist I was, my college experience at Grinnell shaped the type of thinker I was, and my elementary school experience at Beauvoir shaped the type of person I was. I’ll always be proud of and grateful for that journey.”
He recalls Beauvoir in bits and pieces: playing four square during recess, dissecting frogs in science class, painting self-portraits in art class with the help of Mrs. Iker, doing the Maypole dance at the end of his time at Beauvoir, practicing cursive handwriting in second grade. “All of my memories are fond,” he says. What he remembers most, however, from his time at Beauvoir is his sense of belonging. “Maya Angelou said, ‘People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.’ It’s certainly true for me…more than anything, I remember the feeling of Beauvoir — the community.”
What is Jaysen up to now? “It’s a diverse and exciting year for me,” he says. Currently he is in performance for the world premiere of a show called Now Comes the Night, by celebrated playwright E.M. Lewis at 1st Stage Theatre in Tysons, Va. Next he will do a play called Sons of the Prophet at Theatre J, and then this spring he will be in an awesome children’s play called Looking for Roberto Clemente, where he will play the title character!
The magic of theater is being in a room with a group of people and taking them on a journey that makes them look at life a little differently, and sending them back home with a new perspective or understanding about what the world is.