Jennie Jadow is a popular and respected Berkshire area actor and theatre educator. She is thrilled to be playing the leading role of Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) in the second play in our 2016 Fresh Takes Play Reading Series, Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler and directed by Kelly Galvin, which will be presented at 3 pm on Sunday, May 15 at No. Six Depot Roastery and Cafe in West Stockbridge.
The following evening WAM Artistic Director Kristen van Ginhoven will lead the first of our Fresh Takes/Your Take OLLI Companion Class on this reading at the Pittsfield campus of Berkshire Community College. Click here to learn more.
Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer who made contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), RNA (ribonucleic acid), viruses, coal, and graphite. Although her works on coal and viruses were appreciated in her lifetime, her contributions to the discovery of DNA were largely recognized posthumously. Ziegler’s play explores how Franklin, an intelligent, stubborn and courageous woman, navigated a world dominated by men.
WAM THEATRE: It’s wonderful to have you taking the lead in this exciting reading, but this isn’t your first time working with WAM. You were with us for Everywoman and our recent reading as part of the In Motion Literary Party in the 2016 10×10 Festival. What attracted you to this role and the Fresh Takes Series?
JENNIE JADOW: I am very interested in the work that Kristen van Ginhoven is doing with WAM, so whenever I can support her I try to show up. I had submitted my resume for consideration to be part of the Fresh Takes Series because I think it has introduced Berkshire audiences to some really innovative new work over the past two years. Molly Clancy and Kristen both reached out and were interested in having me read the part of Rosalind. I am looking forward to diving into telling this fantastic, beautifully written story, especially under the direction of my friend and talented colleague, Kelly Galvin.
WAM: Tell us what you make of Rosalind Franklin.
JENNIE: Like many people, I imagine, I didn’t know anything about her. Before reading Photograph 51 I’d never known that she was so engaged in discovering and bringing the theory and science of DNA to the world. Her work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA helped to lead to the discovery of the DNA double helix, for which James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. It is frustrating that the men involved didn’t give credit and a name to this woman who was crucial to their work.
Rosalind never married or had children, and she died from ovarian cancer when she was just 37. It appears that much of what we know about her life is through the writings of her colleagues; who noted that Rosalind wanted to focus on research and be left alone. She was a fantastically flawed woman, and the play presents her as difficult to engage and work with. Historically, we know the role of women was painful in the post-war years, and Rosalind was forging her way in a largely male dominated field, but it seems her rigid personality made it even harder to make connections in her field. She might have stood a better chance if she had been able to work cooperatively.
I haven’t decided yet whether she abandoned having a marriage and children in order to pursue her career, or if her career was all that drove her. There is a hint of a relationship with one man, but little comes of that. Another gentleman says he’s sorry they didn’t explore how things might have been different between them, but the conversation has it genesis from him, not from her. Her male colleagues didn’t extend any professional courtesy to her, either as female colleague, a woman in her own right, or as a scientist in their field who deserved public recognition, and they present her work without crediting her. Tellingly, on her first day of work, she is left behind as the men head to the the men’s only formal dining room.
Also, Rosalind was Jewish. Ziegler touches lightly on her religion in the play, and it may not be integral to the main themes of the play, but that must have had some significance in Britain in the years immediately following World War II and is worth exploring.
Above all, the play raises the questions, what does it mean to be a professional woman? Would we be having this conversation if she was a man? The play is timely, as we as a society examine the idea of “having it all.” Can we have meaningful and full personal and familial lives while pursuing our careers to their richest extent? Is balance a myth? Do we pursue our deepest personal interests at the cost of those around us? And, in the case of Rosalind Franklin, what does it mean to be an expert in her field at a time when many women were struggling to even find a foothold in the professional world at all?
WAM: You are such a vital part of the Berkshire Theatre scene. How did you come to live and work here?
I grew up here, in Stockbridge. My parents took me to performances at the Berkshire Theatre Festival, now the Berkshire Theatre Group, all the time. In fact, they took me as a newborn to see Shakespeare & Company’s very first performance at The Mount, which was A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I ended up being in the cast of Midsummer when the company performed it for the last time outdoors at The Mount.
WAM: It sounds like you were born and bred to be a Berkshire theatre artist! Where did you study?
JENNIE: I earned my BFA from the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. After graduation I was doing nicely, auditioning and working in New York City, when Kate Maguire hired me for a summer at the BTG and I realized that I could have a really rich artistic life up here without waiting in lines around the block for an audition slot, so I moved back.
Since then I have worked with many of the major Berkshire arts organizations. I ran the Education Department at Barrington Stage Company for a couple of years. Then in 2001 Kevin Coleman recruited me for Education Department at Shakespeare & Company and I have worked primarily there ever since. I also got married and gave birth to my daughter, Sophie, who is the light of my life. And I earned my Masters in Clinical Psychology and Dance & Movement Therapy to enhance with my work with Shakespeare & Company’s Shakespeare in the Courts program.
WAM: We always look forward to you in those family-friendly romps on the tented Rose Footprint Theatre at Shakespeare & Company!
JENNIE: Jenna Ware has really figured out how to use that space to its best advantage. And the Commedia scripts are the best!
WAM: What are you doing this coming summer?
JENNIE: This summer will be quiet for me, acting wise, but I have joined the Board at Shakespeare & Company, so I’ll keep busy doing more fundraising and cheerleading for the company. This season is exciting! The company is still in a transition, but I think we’ve got it all worked out. Jon Croy, Ariel Bock, and Steve Ball are a terrific leadership team.