Welcome to the Inner Orbit Interview Series, where I bother LGBT+ and female-identifying performers about their lives and experiences as comedians. This week’s subject is a firecracker on stage and off: Jamie Zeske!
Though Jamie initially signed on to improv classes to improve her writing skills, she was delighted to find that it also provided her with catharsis. As a transgender, genderqueer girl, the day-to-day struggles of someone a non-standard gender identity can become overwhelming. “Having a healthy outlet to play pretend has actually informed some of [my] most adult recent decisions,” she says. This is the experience of many LGBT+ performers: difficult life situations are reenacted on stage in a fun, low-stress way, and the decisions made in a scene can help performers suss out what to do in real life. It also makes for a great social education tool. “Improv is really great for empathy, listening, looking at a situation from every angle,” Jamie observes.
Support from fellow performers is also critical for those who identify as transgender, genderqueer, and any combination of the two. Jamie believes the most helpful improvisers are the ones who let LGBT+ have their day in the sun. “Trans people hold every kind of job in the world, so we can definitely play a barista in your Starbucks world domination scene. And so much more!” she jokes. “Someone's gender shouldn't be the most notable thing in a scene…” and so, no matter how a performer labels themselves or others in a scene, it’s important to both respect that choice and not make it the brunt of a joke or game. “I think the ultimate goal is for everyone to play anyone or anything in improv,” Jamie thinks. “So just by meeting the other person in the scene and letting go of preconceptions, you're already making room for people to be themselves. For me and probably other GNC people, that freedom sort of lifts a burden of presentation off of you…my favorite scenes are always mirror scenes - what we have in common and what we face together is richer than what sets us apart. [It’s] a better engine for surprise and discovery.”
Jamie can be seen live when she performs with Separate Checks, The Cabinet, and the all-LGBT+ troupe Let's Get Busy Tonight.
Emily is a writer, comedic improviser, and a Pisces. She currently performs both short and long form improv with Let's Get Busy Tonight, an all LGBT+ improv troupe.