Meet Jesse Deardorff-Green, who has two plays in this weekend's Renegade Theatre Festival
Thursday, Aug. 18 — Originally from Fort Wayne, Ind., and now living in Laingsburg, 34-year-old Jesse Deardorff-Green became a professional actor at an early age. Today, he keeps busy in the Lansing theater scene, working in productions at Peppermint Creek Theatre Co., Riverwalk Theatre, Lansing Community College Theatre, Michigan State University Theatre, and various other independent companies. He is also writing a novel.
Deardorff-Green talked with City Pulse about his career and the Renegade Theatre Festival, which hosts plays in various locations across Old Town by the area’s up-and-comers. Two plays that Deardorff-Green wrote (and performs in) are included in this weekend’s festival.
Describe your works that are in Renegade this year. I have two plays in Renegade, and they ended up being much more similar than I originally intended. The first is “This is a Play,” which is being read as part of Renegade Now. It’s a play about being a play, and creating a play, and also about love and growth. I’m actually a character in it — or two, or five.
The other is “Everybody Wins,” which just went through a painful rewrite process. It was an absurd comedy about escaping identity in unexpected ways. It still is, but in a smaller and probably more confusing manner.
What do you like about Renegade? What has it done for you?
Renegade is wide open. My previous involvement with the festival has involved me “hanging myself” one year and the next I was sticking my hand up a puppet. I wrote “This is a Play” because of a show I saw at the festival last year. I walked out of that performance and all I could think was, “I have to go write something now.” That sort of thing happens every year at Renegade. I love the idea of being a part of that.
When and how did you get into acting?
I was born into it. Technically I was up on stage while in the womb. My mother (Charlotte Deardorff) is a wonderful actress, and was in a production of “Adaptation” while pregnant with me. I was in my first show when I was 5, and I've loved performance ever since.
How and when did you begin writing plays?
I was working on writing a novel and it wasn’t going well, mostly because the plot was awful and the characters were uninteresting. I had to take a break from that mess and so I started writing free-form dialogue. That turned into the first play I wrote. I’ve had three plays of mine performed before audiences but I’ve written 14, I think. We’ll go with 14.
How would you describe the Lansing theater scene? Lansing theater is struggling as far as giving actors a way of making a living, but there is great work being done around here, just amazing stories up on stage all year round.
What are some good local theaters?
Williamston Theatre has a beautiful and intimate space, and I’ve spent so much time in LCC's Dart Auditorium that it feels like coming home every time I sit down there. If I had to pick one place in town that leaps to mind when I think of theater though, it would be the Creole Gallery. It’s stripped down, but has everything you need and some of my great memories as a performer are in that building. There are a lot of committed and brilliant people working to make performance in mid-Michigan something new, valuable and affecting.
“Everybody Wins” starring Trisha Kosloski, Brian de Vries and Jesse Deardorff-Green 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18, Friday, Aug. 19, and Saturday, Aug. 20 The Mustang, 1213/1215 Turner St., Lansing Free
"This is a Play" 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19, and 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20 Red Cedar Friends Meeting House, 1400 N. Turner St., Lansing Free