Jacqueline Youm, founder of one of DC’s newest companies, JaYo Théâtre, is from Senegal, the daughter of an International Monetary Fund economist. Watch below as this talented performer, in her striking monologue “Beautiful Burden/Je Suis Noire/I am Black,” describes her shock in first encountering the daily, brutally lived American form of theater of the absurd known as racism and white supremacy in the liberal city of Portland Oregon.
Since her family was established in DC, she returned here after her undergraduate studies. She liked the area’s diversity, its rich theater scene, the different microcosms within the city and a pace that was not too fast and not too slow. “To some people I am a foreigner. To others I am American because I don’t have an accent.”
However, in theater auditions, she has sometimes been found not to be African American enough.
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Prior to the onset of the pandemic and its subsequent shutdown of large gatherings, Youm had been preparing to self-produce her original one act play. She already had experience with Zoom prior to the crisis. So, when live performances became impossible, she asked herself, “Why not do it online?” As a result, she became involved with the Peter Orvetti-led Facebook group, Coalition of Virtually Interactive Drama. “I organized these readings and performances every single weekend.”
As she has been doing so much online theater, her actors urged her to give her production group an identity, a name. And thus JaYo Théâtre came to be. “We do lots of original work and post it to YouTube.”
Where to find JaYo Théâtre performances:
Live streamed to Facebook
CestJackie on YouTube
In leading JaYo Théâtre, Jackie has three guiding principles.
1. Create a space for artists, actors and people who want to get their feet wet in this discipline, to PLAY. Create a safe place where actors can make choices without too much direction or restriction
2) make it as inclusive and accessible a place as possible. Online, less physically able folks do not have the physical barriers that exist in most theaters. Women can play men, men can play women, nonbinary folks can participate in a way that feels comfortable and truthful to them.
3) diversity is paramount. She specifically seeks out Black, Asian, Latinx actors to afford them opportunities in performance that they may not otherwise experience.
JaYo Théâtre schedule for the next two weekends:
Sunday August 2:
1pm EST – 2 original short plays
The American Experiment
Letters of Merci
Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw
Sunday August 9:
F***in’ Howard Phillips by Marshall Schaffer
2nd play TBD
The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare