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Venice

venice
Jenny Powers: Formidable Talent and Dangerous Beauty
By John Steely, Photography Jim Cox
February 2011
Jenny Powers
Taking a break from a dress rehearsal at the Pasadena Playhouse, New York stage actor Jenny Powers pauses thoughtfully before explaining why she loves performing on the stage. “I always lived in my imagination as a kid, playing with my dolls and dressing up and lip synching to Evita and Hello Dolly. Performing brings me back to that place, to living in a world that I create with my imagination, a world for my characters to fly in and soar. There is nothing like creating something new and original. It’s invigorating!”

And it is this feeling that carried the statuesque Boston native through the top-notch vocal performance training program at Northwestern University, won her starring roles in spectacular Broadway productions of Grease and Little Women, and landed her a variety of film and TV appearances, including “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (2007-2009), “Nurse Jackie” (2009), and “All My Children” (2009). With her seasoned acting chops and classically trained voice in fine form, Jenny Powers is eager to make her LA stage debut playing the lead in Dangerous Beauty (adapted from the New Regency screenplay released as the film Dangerous Beauty in 1998, inspired by Margaret Rosenthal’s book, The Honest Courtesan), a thrilling and provocative new musical based on the true story of Veronica Franco, an outstanding courtesan and poet who utilizes her position as a prostitute to the city’s powerful elite as a means to access education and rise high up in the social and political ranks of 16th century Venice, Italy. As the city of Venice starts to crumble, so does Veronica’s influential status, and she finds herself caught up in a turbulent and uproarious trial where she is accused of witchcraft and attempts to stand up against the Inquisition. “It’s definitely a female empowerment piece, a young woman finding power through educating herself and using her imagination to transcend the limitations of a patriarchal society. Veronica was trying to shift consciousness in a way that remains inspirational to women today — inspirational to women looking to break through the limitations of their circumstances and better themselves,” Powers states, “but it’s not only a show for women. It’s also very much a political piece, dripping with sex. And the frank eroticism that comes out of Veronica’s mouth and her witty banter with the powerful people of the day makes it so much fun to watch.”

In person, Jenny Powers is bright, friendly, focused, and passionately intense, exuding a deep concern for the panoramic betterment of the human condition. It is easy to see why she chose to portray a young woman who uses beauty, wit, and intelligence as a means to overcome the odds, and why she chose a play that showcases the brutal efforts that life circumstances can make to crush personal integrity. “Veronica Franco was called ‘The Honest Courtesan,’ known for her relentless honesty and refusal to stop telling the truth,” Powers remarks. “She is so inspiring to me, and playing her is such an emotional rollercoaster ride. The show is an amazingly innovative, powerful, and sexy piece, with music that combines renaissance chord structure and rock. Straddling the old and the new. A period piece with a very contemporary edge. We haven't seen anything like this yet!”
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