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Meet Jenn O’Brien of Leo Rising Theatre Company in Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenn O’Brien.

Jenn, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Growing up in the Bay Area, I was able to absorb the beautifully diverse art offered through theatre, dance, and music. I had always wanted to be a part of that somehow, and my loud personality labeled me as “the actor” in school growing up, and of course, led to cringeworthy improv groups that have absolutely (and unfortunately) shaped me as a human. When I graduated Art of Acting Studio Stella Adler’s Professional Conservatory in Los Angeles, I found myself craving the magic of creating art with like-minded individuals. After directing a handful of shows with people I loved working with (in college, shoutout to Saint Mary’s!) and at Art of Acting, I knew that my voice as a young female director was growing. Theatre has always been transformative and essential to me: a home. I’ve always found the theatre lobby of wherever I was studying or performing to be my second apartment, and I wanted to offer that special feeling to others. Los Angeles isn’t known as a “theatre town,” and that truly bothers me because of all of the amazing work I’ve seen here….so it seemed obvious that I needed to create my own theatre company! My best friend, Kristine, and I were chatting about the name for it and finally came up with: Leo Rising Theatre Co. This combined our love for astrology (we’re both Leo risings), but it also means for everyone to rise to the occasion, to be unstoppable, ferocious, and bold in our approach to the art.

I am lucky to be surrounded by so many individuals who have done nothing but encouraged and supported this company: from fundraisers to staged readings to productions. The inaugural production of Sarah Ruhl’s translation of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters (2018) set the tone of Leo Rising: an ensemble of people who are here to transform themselves and audiences just for the love of it. Since then, LRTC has successfully put on two staged readings (one of them being a new musical, and the other being a new play) and three productions: “Three Sisters” (directed by me), “Titanic” by Christopher Durang (directed by Caitlin Arndt), and “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” by Stephen Adly Guirgis (directed by Michael Kodi Farrow). I am excited about the future and to announce our next production for October!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Starting a theatre company is easy. Keeping a company going is difficult. I’ve always been a person that would rather do everything myself, but I had to learn how to delegate jobs and lead a group of people. I had to learn how to ask for advice and for favors! The people who have helped me along the way will always hold a special place in my heart.

Please tell us about Leo Rising Theatre Company.
Leo Rising Theatre Company has always been about serving the community: the actors in Los Angeles who need a home to create and collaborate together. This is important to me because our productions are more than just putting on a play; everyone involved has a voice, and we grow as a group of people. We work hard and play hard (equal amounts…) I also like the idea of giving people opportunities that they wouldn’t necessarily be offered elsewhere. My friend Neda Lahidji and I collaborated on producing her friend’s new musical: “Waiting.” My other friend Michael Kodi Farrow had never directed before and wanted to start, so he directed our most recent production! I think that more theaters need to be able to embrace new talent and offer space for them, and that’s one of our main goals.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
The first moment that I began to believe in myself as a leader was when I became Student Body President of my K-8th grade school. As cliche as that is, I remember the bittersweet feeling of my hard work paying off, but somehow feeling ashamed to have won. I cried the day I found out because I was overwhelmed with joy, but also sadness for my friends who wanted it just as badly. I wanted them to have a voice as well….which has fueled what I do ever since.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Teya Duncan, Madaleine Felder, Adrian van Der Valk, Anthony Farrow

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