Interview with Disaster! star Jennifer Simard
Jennifer Simard recently earned her first Tony nomination for her hysterical portrayal of Sister Mary Downy in this season's Broadway premiere of Disaster!, which played the Nederlander Theatre from 9th February to 8th May 2016.
Jennifer's previous Broadway credits include Sister Act, Shrek The Musical and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
We caught up with this Broadway season's favourite Sister to take a look back at Disaster!...
Thomas Hayden Millward: Congratulations on your Tony nomination, Jennifer! This has been quite a rollercoaster ride of a Broadway Season for you, hasn’t it?
Jennifer Simard: Thank you! I’m delighted and mostly grateful. I’ve always wanted to be a part of this community. It’s no joke to say that I feel like the Broadway community could be another school in Harry Potter’s world of witchcraft and wizardry. We are our own house and if that’s the case, I never want to leave this school. I love it!
THM: Your hilarious performance as Sister Mary Downy in Disaster! was one of the highlights of my season. Why do you think nuns make for such great comic characters?
JS: Well, nuns, maids – these are stock characters for any character actress. I had never played one, however, so layered and complex. This has been absolute joy. But I think it’s the juxtaposition in them – in the Good, with their funny, little penguin costumes and they’re supposed to be so reverent and pious and so when you see them doing whacky things, it is quite enjoyable, isn’t it?
THM: I’ll say! And you really bring the house down at each performance with your rendition of "Torn Between Two Lovers/Never Can Say Goodbye," whilst almost making sweet love to a ‘Hawaii-Five-O’ gambling machine. Did you feel the pressure to deliver every night?
JS: Yes, and I don’t know if this can be credited to her, but I heard that Barbara Berry, who is one of my favourite character actresses, is credited with once saying: “You always have to have your second best performance in your back pocket.” And I remembered that on nights when I was human and that one number didn’t go as well as it did the night before. It’s never the same. It’s a valuable, moving, living thing. You just hope that it’s excellent every night and you have to forgive yourself when it’s not as good one night from the next. It’s very frustrating. If I ever fail, I get extremely upset about it. So I strive for perfection, but I had a mantra on my dressing room mirror that said “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” which is quoted by Voltaire. I tried to maintain that every night.
THM: Is it kind of a bitter/sweet feeling for you because your Broadway season continues with the Tony Awards and all the other ceremonies, but due to Disaster! closing, that spelled the end for the rest of your cast?
JS: I think so. For the entire cast, it was like saying goodbye to your best friend, but it doesn’t negate the art that we created and the joy we gave to so many people. I also maintain that this is part of Broadway – shows open and they close. Disaster! was a casualty of such a strong Broadway season overall. As a community, that is nothing to mourn. It's something to celebrate. I’m very proud of my friends Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick for never losing sight of their dream and getting it to Broadway. It was a New York Times Critic’s Pick and it made so many people happy. That’s a win!