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Meet Jesse Bliss of The Roots and Wings Project

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jesse Bliss.

Jesse, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I saw my mother’s best friend Fran in a play at my school, MONTANA MOLLY AND THE PEPPERMINT KID, in first grade and got to sit in the front row because I knew her. I’d been creating scenes in my bedroom since I could speak, but had no idea the theatre existed. My mind was blown. Then and there, I knew what my destiny was. Without access to theatre, I created it myself at elementary school with the support of administration. My life growing up was tumultuous from start to going out into the world on my own. I ended up in some really dangerous scenarios during my teenage years that nearly cost me my life. There was a whole lot to heal and process. The theatre was a place where I was completely alive, inspired and everything made sense. Along the way it has always been the way I speak to God. There was trauma on top of trauma, yet when I did this work, I felt clear, untouchable and focused and all from the spirit not the ego. Even my pain had a respectable place. That was the most powerful aspect for me. There was no shame in my experiences or feelings. Art is for healing for both artists and audiences. I personally feel it is the single most healing modality available on earth next to prayer and nature.

Has it been a smooth road?
There was nothing smooth about my road. I was raised by a single mother who endured 3 abusive husbands including my father whom she left when I was an infant. She was so much caught up in trying to gain footing, she that she could never really lift her head above water to breathe. I have enormous empathy for what she went through. It had a horrid impact on me, but there was never an intention of hurting me, only keeping me safe which never really worked out. I first dealt with it by focusing on school, dance and creating theatre and then, as a teenager went to a very dark place. My mother had moved away from Phoenix and after us both getting our asses beat by her second husband in Detroit, I was against going with her and her new husband who I couldn’t stand and leaving Phoenix again to potential horror.

Staying with my father couldn’t have and didn’t last long. I ran away and was gone for a month during a school year. Got sent to Sacramento to live with my mother who was not ready to have me. I ran the streets and really heinous things happened during that time that almost killed me. The one human being to actively loved and cared about me in terms of being up on me, watching my whereabouts, asking about my day, ended up doing time for the trunk of weed he had on his way to get me. That could have been me caught up in that. I split Sacramento and hit the pavement of San Francisco, met my acting teacher Linda Lowry a prodigy of Bobby Lewis of the Original Actor’s Studio, then starting studying the craft rigorously. She saw the writer in me. Thus I was born again. Always written, but never understood it as a way of life for myself. The themes of the trauma that had made up my life came out in my work and healed.

My theatre company, The Roots and Wings Project, was born from the play I wrote, ROOTS AND WINGS, about a woman’s look at her painful past to understand her present. There is great power in that reclamation. All of the work since examines this concept and, though traditional theatre, is deeply infused with original music and visual components. I am eternally compelled to examine what it is we don’t normally experience or hear the truth about. We are shamed into silence as women and tend to blame ourselves for the horrors experienced in this patriarchal society where women are so often harmed and oppressed. Exposing these experiences through a theatrical lense elicits deep healing for both the artists and audiences. It is a ritual that allows for deeper understanding and transcendence. The Roots and Wings Project has always attracted very powerful artists that are about going deep into the work. This is a great gift I do not take for granted. All the struggles come to play on a stage that allows us to laugh, cry and breathe our way through. We have also done a lot of site-specific work which adds an entirely different element, allows for a rare experience, and speaks to the roots of theatre itself which started with Homer in the streets.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into The Roots and Wings Project story. Tell us more about the business.
I am Founder and Creative Director of The Roots and Wings Project, a politically charged, socially transformative, project-based theatre company that brings attention to truth and provides stage and space for voices of the unnamed, unknown and misunderstood. We are enormously collaborative, process-based and nurturing of art and artists, thus creating work that takes artists deep into themselves, each other and the world and in turn, elicits the same for audiences. We do a whole lot of site-specific work and all stories look at life through the female lens, offering deep insights into the psyche and experience of women. We employ many men artists in our work as well who approach the work as allies. The work is also incorporative of music and visuals. Our artists are extraordinarily talented, brave and committed to exploring truth. We mix a wide range of powerful artists that come from very different vantage points, offering a rich exploration of the human spirit from many perspectives we normally don’t experience. We do work in prisons, school, and traditional theatres as well as the site-specific locations. Our writing workshops are designed to elicit participants highest levels of creativity and help bring work to light in physical manifestation.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Theatre is more relevant now than ever before and that is only going to increase. With such constant use of technology in communication, people are losing real-time connection and interpersonal skills. It is a novelty to gather together in a room to experience a story told by living, breathing human beings and experienced live. With phones put away, a shared focus and an intention to journey with the story, we are collectively moved to another place and time. We are transformed by witnessing the strength of the human spirit to prevail against all odds. In the coming years, people will consciously need to experience the healing of theatre as a sure-fire way to connect deeper to our humanity and come alive despite the challenges in ourselves, our lives and the world.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Angela L. Torres, Sherry Young, Arianna Gouveia

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