by Lorie Lewis Ham
Here at KRL we like to share with our readers the lives behind the very talented actors that perform for us on the local stages. This month we are profiling local actress Danielle Jorn who has graced the stage of many of the shows we have reviewed here.
Living most of her life in the Fresno/Clovis area, Danielle didn’t really discover theatre until high school when she randomly decided to take drama her freshman year at Clovis West. “I didn’t think I was very good at it at first but my drama teacher, Elizabeth Fiester, really encouraged me to stick with it,” said Danielle. “She cast me in the ensemble of the spring musical Anything Goes and I caught the bug. After that, I was hooked. I ended up taking it all four years of high school and became incredibly involved.”
After being in the ensemble in a few shows her freshman and sophomore years, Danielle finally got her first big part when a student from CSU Fresno’s theater department came to the high school to direct a classroom production of Lost In Yonkers. She decided to audition because she thought getting some more audition experience would be a good idea. “I never really thought I’d be an actual contender. Lo and behold, he cast me in the role of Bella Kurnitz. It was one of those moments in life that I’ll treasure forever. The first time I saw my name on a cast list at the top of the list with a character’s name next to it. I cried. Like a baby.”
After high school Danielle studied theatre at CSU Fresno, going on to get her degree. While there, she was in several shows. She has also performed with the Woodward Shakespeare Festival, Reedley River City Theatre Company, Fourth Wall Theatre Company in Visalia (where she got to play Maureen in Rent), and has done many shows with Good Company Players in Fresno. “I was able to revisit the role of Bella Kurnitz in Lost in Yonkers with GCP at their 2nd Space Theatre, along with Marie in Is He Dead? A Mark Twain Comedy, Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday and the opportunity to understudy (and go on for) Babe Botrelle in Crimes of the Heart. I also have appeared with GCP at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater as Rose Alvarez in Bye Bye Birdie and Christine Colgate in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”
Danielle’s leading man in many of these shows, and in real life, is KRL favorite Peter Allwine. The pair have a great chemistry on stage and off. “Danielle is without a doubt an amazing force onstage,” shared Peter. “She easily has to be one of the most talented people I have had the honor of working with. I may be a tad biased, as she is my girlfriend, but I am always so happy and absolutely love doing a show with her. She commits whole heartedly to each character she plays, finding little nuances, creating back stories for each role, and has a knack for bringing out the best in everyone she shares the stage with.”
Her leading man in the GCP production of Born Yesterday was another GCP regular Eric Orum, who had never worked with her or seen her on stage until that show. “Since Born Yesterday I have had the pure joy of watching Danielle from an audiences’ perspective and when Danielle enters a scene, she is one of those actors you cannot take your eyes off of because her love of performing radiates through every word, movement and note. Danielle is what is called a triple threat. She can act, sing, and dance and she does them all exceptionally well.”
“She really is one of the hardest working actors that I know and has no fear of experimenting in rehearsals. On stage even when I forgot a line or two, she flawlessly stepped in and we kept going without a worry. I trust her. And for me that is the most important feeling onstage for an actor in live theater. But getting to know Danielle as a friend has been the best gift.”
Not really having a favorite type of show, Danielle shared that she just loves the process of creating a character and creating the world in which they exist in, whether it is in a serious, intense drama or a slap-stick musical. “I’m all about character work and really making them as real, relatable and three-dimensional as possible.”
What she loves best about acting is playing. “I love the rehearsal process because we have the glorious opportunity to just make choices and play. There’s a reason they call them ‘Plays’ and I think people forget that sometimes. I love finding new things and making discoveries on stage. And connection—truly connecting with the material, other actors on stage and to the audience. I love being able to take an audience on a ride so that they can forget about their day and just get wrapped up our story. It’s truly a beautiful thing when an audience member can forget they are at a theater and invest completely in what they are watching. It gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.”
The hardest thing for her is having it end after investing so much of herself in a character. “A lot of people are glad to see runs end because they ‘get their life back.’ For me it’s almost the opposite, I feel like I’m losing a part of mine. As exhausting as it gets working full time and performing, I live for performing. I can’t imagine my life without it.”
Danielle considers herself blessed to have parents who support her love of theatre and have always encouraged her and been her biggest cheerleaders. She considers them among her heroes, along with her former drama teacher Elizabeth Fiester. “She changed my life by encouraging me to keep going with theatre. I was young and shy, but she knew there was a performer in me. She believed in me before I even believed in myself. If it weren’t for her, none of this would have happened. I’ll never be able to thank her enough.”
Elizabeth said she noticed right away that Danielle was talented, but had to convince her to audition. For the past three years, Elizabeth has had the pleasure of working with Danielle again at Good Company Players where Elizabeth often directs and performs in shows. “Working with her in Bye Bye Birdie, was a kind of dream come true for the two of us sharing the stage. It’s not just her talent that makes it so fun to work with her but also her commitment to any project and her ability to make anything work [and] look so easy.”
According to Danielle, what has helped her grow the most as a performer are the amazing teachers she has had, and what she has learned from her peers. “I think just keeping myself open to learning and open to new experiences has really helped me to grow.”
As to advice for those wanting to get into acting, Danielle says never stop learning and studying. “In my mind, I will never be done learning. I will never master the art. With every show, comes a new opportunity to learn and grow. The second you start to think you are on top, you will fall straight to the bottom. The ability to learn is your greatest asset. If performing is what you want to do, do it with your whole heart, mind and soul or don’t do it at all.”
When asked what her dream role would be, she said she has so many, including Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Jo March in Little Women: The Musical and Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes.
As to the future, she has always wanted to teach. “I feel like one day I could be a pretty damn good drama teacher. I would love to make that a reality someday. But to be honest, whatever it is I am doing, as long as I can perform in some capacity, I will be a happy woman.”
You can see Danielle next in Ave Q coming to Visalia in July. Watch KRL for more details, a review & video interviews!