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Jennifer Damiano: Spider-Man's Leading Lady

The 19-year-old Broadway star talks about working with Julie Taymor, Bono, and The Edge in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

By New York City
Jennifer Damiano
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
Jennifer Damiano
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
At the age of 19, Jennifer Damiano has already earned a Tony Award nomination for her role as Natalie in the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Next to Normal. She is now starring as Mary Jane Watson in the highly anticipated Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark at the Foxwoods Theatre. TheaterMania recently spoke to Damiano about the show.

THEATERMANIA: You made your Broadway debut at 15 in Spring Awakening, which made you the youngest member of the original cast, and now this is your third Broadway musical. What have you learned along the way?
JENNIFER DAMIANO: The most important lesson, and it's the common theme of my life, is learning how to pace myself. You have to learn how to take care of yourself.

TM: When did you first audition for Spider-Man?
JD: I auditioned in April; there were four auditions from April through July. One month before rehearsals started is when I landed the part. It was nice to have a month off in between Next to Normal and starting rehearsals for Spider-Man.

TM: When did you first meet Bono and the Edge?
JD: At my final callback. They liked my sound, which I am grateful for. They were very involved with rehearsals. The score they wrote is beautiful and they are amazing.

TM: How would you describe Mary Jane?
JD: I was careful, at the beginning of the process, not to do too much research. I have to find her in myself first and then find out the classic things about her. She has a big journey in this musical. Mary Jane might seem younger than people expect because I am playing her. She is passionate and brave with a lot of hope and dreams.

TM: Did you read any of the comic books, or watch the television series or the movies?
JD: I had seen the movies awhile back. A month into rehearsals, people had the comic books lying around, so I read them. But the Mary Jane that I am playing is much different in this script.

TM: Was your first preview as nerve-wracking as we might think?
JD: I was not prepared for how big this theater really is! The most nerve-wracking thing was all of the people in the audience, since it is a huge theater, and I cannot do what I do at a smaller, more intimate theater. So, yes, I was pretty nervous. At the end of the day, I just have to go to work and do my job.

TM: You are now in your second week of previews. Is it getting easier?
JD: There is so much I have learned since previews have started. When you put the musical in front of an audience, you get to see how the audience reacts. I learned a lot about what I need to do with Mary Jane. We are attempting things on stage that were never done before. The cast morale was great this week.

TM: What do you think about all the stunts in the show?
JD: People that have been performing these stunts are champions. I am in complete awe. They don't get the same recognition as everyone else. In rehearsals, I couldn't keep my mouth shut watching these guys fly around.

TM: How many costume and set changes are there?
JD: Every single scene is very different. This is what I love about Julie Taymor's style. I think we have over 50 set changes and hundreds of costume changes. My character is the least technical, though; she's the most human character in the show.

TM: What do you admire most about Julie Taymor?
JD: I love Julie so much. I'm actually obsessed with her! I almost called her mom the other day. I admire her bravery -- she is fearless, she has an open heart and mind, and she puts this into her work. She is all day, everyday Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.

TM: What are you most looking forward to from this musical?
JD: I think about what the audience is taking away from me. I am getting better at telling my story every night. I want to make this performance as intimate as I can amongst this big cast.

TM: How are you coping with being part of a show that is getting this much attention and press?
JD: Eventually, the show will open and run, and then hopefully, people will not be as obsessed with it. The fact that this is the biggest Broadway show in history is surreal. I can't believe it. I have worked hard in my career, but I have been lucky as well.


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