This month, we are pleased to spotlight Jamie Petitto, aka Miss Scarlet in Clue. Jamie also serves as our trailer videographer extraordinaire and prior to Clue, has found her way to our stage in The One Act Play That Goes Wrong and Diner on the Way (2019). In addition, Jamie volunteers on our Programming Committee that reads scripts for the next season’s shows.
Recently, Jamie and board member Jim Ditto met up on the banks of the Twisp River. As the rushing water provided background, they talked middle names (she won’t tell you hers), favorite dinosaurs (brontosaurus), theater, acting for pay, acting on camera, and what makes people laugh.
Q. Tell us about your past experience with theater?
After booking the role of narrator in Stone Soup in second grade and watching everyone stare at me and tell me how good I was because I could read [STILL TRUE] and I had a cute hat, I knew that’s what I wanted to do forever.
And so in my junior year of high school, I decided to audition for Romeo and Juliet. I thought I could get Juliet. I got the nurse, which makes sense now — the comedic relief. Because of auditioning and booking, I was demoted from the varsity soccer team to JV because they said I couldn’t do both. So they called me Big Mama because that’s the year that Chicago came out — the musical with Queen Latifa as Big Mama — because I was the only junior on the JV team. It was all freshmen and sophomores, then me.
I just always realized that being in theater was going to be a sacrifice and not my profession because I liked doing too many things. It wouldn't be my college major — it didn't seem practical and I never considered it a career — acting or theater. I just thought theater was a way to hang out with people who were like me, and I almost always did comedies. Even as the nurse, I was doing Shakespearean comedy.
What excites you about live theater?
Even if you say the same words, in the same order, for the same amount of time, every night, seven days a week, you’re still going to have a different show because there are different people, with different reactions, and they’re bringing different concepts and realities and expectations to the table. It changes you on stage, whether you realize that or not. I like that you feel differently, even if you’re saying the same thing over and over again. I’ve never had such a monotonous variance in all my life. Heh heh heh. It’s addicting. It’s like “What are we having for dinner?” And you’re like, “Chicken.” And you’re like, “I don’t know why it tastes different tonight. It just tastes different tonight.” Tonight’s lemon chicken because the audience brought lemon that night. It’s garlic chicken because the audience brought garlic.
The audience brings the seasoning to an entree that is the same. Same entree, different seasonings every night.
Plus you never know. It’s not safe! You could, at any point… Isn’t everyone’s nightmare if they’re in acting, that they’re on stage and they can’t remember their line? Haven’t you had that dream? That you were on stage and you were just given the script? That you haven’t had time to prepare… So to go on stage, that’s still an option. It’s back there in your subconscious and you’re like, “I could say whatever I want and sabotage this. Someone in the audience could stand up and sabotage this.” I guess I like that you show up and we’re all on the same page, that we’re all going to be supportive and we’re all going to have fun. And they’re ROOTING for you!
Why do you think it’s important for the Methow Valley to have live theater?
When you live in the Methow Valley, I think you share a set of experiences that all relate to one another. You all know what it’s like to maybe garden or to recreate outside. Or you’re all going to the same restaurants because there’s a handful… So you can relate to all of these people all of the time. You’re going to the same events. And if you love theater, then we can bring in stories that aren’t the Methow. They’re in a second story apartment in New York City. They are in Namibia. They are underwater. They are… you know? And I imagine most of the material we bring, even if it’s The Wizard of Oz, that the Methow hasn’t experienced and this allows them to go to the same restaurants or your same riverside hole and have your mind expand and and come up with a friend that you’ve seen every day for thirty years and having maybe a new opinion on something, a place, or experience you haven’t thought about before. Live theater brings this novel concept to your mind, even if your body does the same thing on repeat in this valley, that you can relate to. I like that actors are leading the audiences into a new expansive world that’s different in their mind.
Live theater in the Methow allows people to think about other things. It’s a way of traveling, like the Armchair Traveller. I think, maybe it’s just projecting because I like traveling, but I think getting someone to sit in a seat and have their mind travel elsewhere is actually a healthy thing to do, whether it’s to appreciate this local area more, or as much, or whether it inspires them to get out, for a second, of this small community and then come back? I don’t know.
I think that there’s something charming about community theater. It’s people doing it because they just really enjoy telling a story. And they’re just like, “Hey, sit back,” And they’ll just go around the fire — except it’s a theater. It’s a story.
“The Merc loves the stories Jamie tells as an actor and a videographer. Thank you Jamie, for sharing your insights as well as your stories and inspiration!”