Alumna Sam Jackson Making 'Responsible' Artistic Choices

Monday, October 16, 2017
Photo of Sam Jackson performing in Splendour

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE -- This Vacaville native and San Francisco State University grad — she was the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college — recently reached a milestone in her still-young career. When she first started auditioning, she estimates she had a success rate of about 5 percent among theater, film and commercial opportunities. That’s not uncommon among actors, but some of the rejections especially stung. She remembers that at her first film audition, the director stopped her and said, “That’s exactly what I want; I didn’t have to give you any direction. ... Unfortunately, we cast the rest of the family, and they’re all white.” Reflecting on the experience recently, at a cafe across from her Lower Haight apartment, she calls it “the first time I genuinely felt rejection for my blackness.”

She didn’t give up, though. “It really made me want to try that much harder.”

The work has paid off, especially in her projects with Susannah Martin, under whose direction she was in the ensemble for Shotgun Players’ 2014 production of Our Town and in 6NewPlays’ That It All Makes Perfect, from March. The latter, by Erin Bregman, Jackson describes as a poetic play, one in which she couldn’t make the beautiful language in a “four-page monologue” work. Martin, she says, told her, “Stop reading me poetry. Feel this.”

Stripping away her “actor-ness” was also part of Jackson’s process in Splendour, which was directed by Barbara Damashek (who was also one of Jackson’s professors at SF State). Her takeaway from that linguistically complex play was, “The lines are just the lines; what you want to say is inside of you.”

Photo: Sam Jackson (foreground) performs in Splendour at Aurora Theatre. Photo courtesy of Aurora Theatre.