"I was immediately drawn to Zoe because of her complex emotional layering as a young woman. Zoe has a big heart, and does everything wholly... she loves big, and hurts just the same. Her words strike a chord with me and I knew Zoe and I have an undeniable bond: the fear of being alone.
It is exciting to dive into such a full character that has a huge emotional range. It is every actress' dream to find someone like Zoe and to bring her story to life on stage. It is also very scary! Zoe goes through so much pain, and when committing yourself to truly expressing her story it can leave you emotionally raw and incredibly vulnerable. A Scent of Flowers is a mystical, yet heart-wrenching journey of a lifetime and I am excited to experience it with the great people of BackStage."
A role like Zoe is deceptively hard to cast. On the surface level, Zoe is an everywoman: young, lovely, conventional and vibrantly alive. She has conventional needs; love, family, acceptance and a safe place in the world. Seems like an archetypical "ingenue" role. But Saunders gives Zoe the challenge of perspective. Zoe examines -- in an urgently lyrical manner -- her conventional life by beginning the play at the end of that life. It is a deeply emotional perspective shift, leaving Zoe no room to hide from the truths of her young life. The actress playing Zoe -- who never leaves the stage for a moment -- must demonstrate an ability to be both witness and guide to her own final journey.
On audition day, Jess seemed to have an instinctive grasp on the emotional richness of Zoe's journey. In the audition room, she demonstrated a effortless youthful exuberance when reading with audition partners. She also demonstrated a suprising emotional range, again with the same kind of effortlessness, rare in an actor so young. Finally, though, it was her ability to listen deeply and with clear intention, and to wordlessly but actively process events around her that sealed the deal for the casting director and I. I am very excited to have Jess on board for this deeply challenging, transporting play.
A SCENT OF FLOWERS, featuring Jess Berry as "Zoe" opens July 14th at the Building Stage. Each week until opening we'll introduce you to another cast member, so look for another profile next week!
All my best,