My first impression of Jay Sefton was “Apple Pie”. Average good looks, average build. Welcoming disposition. Just a nice guy that I would happily introduce to any of my single girlfriends. But he turns into a real looker when you take a moment and look into his eyes.
After s short round of musical chairs, we sat down in a noisier than usual Starbucks, where I went to the business of getting to know the artist actor and creator of the one-person show “The Most Mediocre Story Never Told”, set to open this weekend at the Meta Theatre in Hollywood.
K7: Let’s start with my standard boring question. How did theatre find you?
JS: I had done a passion play where I played Jesus when I was 13. Then did nothing for about ten years. I think in high school I applied to certain things because of things that I saw, ‘I’ll be a finance major’, after seeing the movie Wall Street. Finally I just kinda bit the bullet and found a school with a theater program that you don’t have to audition for cause I’m not really good with all of what auditioning entails.
JS: And I found one and it ended up being a great experience the first semester. I was between classes and one of the teachers grabbed me and pulled me into his office and pulled this girl into his office. They were doing Twelfth Night. They had us stand next to each other and he was like “Read this.” We ended up reading with each other and I got to play Sebastian. I guess I liked like the girl that was playing…Viola.
K7: And where was that?
JS: Westchester University. About an hour five minutes outside of Philadelphia.
K7: I have to tell you, I’m a little... I’ve read your one-sheet. But I’m still not quite getting the actually concept of you show? Maybe you could explain it to me again.
JS: I started out… I was getting ready to quit acting. I have a friend who had a one-person show. She was from California. It was a great great show. She traveled around the world and when she came back she said she wanted to do a workshop. It would just be like five people working on material and was I interested. Well I immediately said yes, but then I get home and I remember that I’m going to quit acting. So I sent her and email saying thanks a lot but…
K7: How long had you been at it?
JS: Maybe six or seven years out here. There were times here when I I was gonna break in, and they just fizzled away. So I sent her a an email saying thanks no. And she said why don’t you use the workshop to explore why you wanna leave acting…
JS: So I went to this workshop and I got in stage and I said I’m just gonna tell you what’s going on with my body right now. You know, I just talked about what was doing on right then and there. And I was able to launch into stories from there. It was like this whole freeing experience. And I started writing out more and more of my stories. I would go ‘…and this is what happened.’ working with my friend Mike, trying to weave them together in an interesting way.
JS: And I did this weekend long retreat where they talk about, the personal narrative and the difference between the event and story that you wrap around the event. Maybe there was something that I was hanging on to – like say my mother. The story I wrapped around it made it mean something that wasn’t even about my mother. So I’m just carrying around this thing the story inside this event.
JS: So Monday comes around and I’m working with Mike and I say I can’t do this show. He says just read what you’ve got. And I say I can get up there. And I start to think further about stories that I tell about myself. And I wonder how do I do a theater piece without telling the same old stories. How do I do something new? I don’t wanna be the guy who’s the underdog from Philadelphia. I want to be confident and create in the moment.
K7: So that would make your show to a large degree, improvisational?
JS: It is scripted, but it has the feel of begin improvisational. What I want to do is start with hey here I am, I was born… and devolve.
K7: Improv is the wrong word. I mean spontaneous.
JS: I have an idea for a character from Philadelphia. He’s hardcore, he’s into the stones. So I get to expand on that and go with the character, who’s a bit of an a**hole who’s forever trashing my stories. He’s the character that kind of hijacks the whole show.
JS: I’ve been working on this for a while and I could continue to work on it. My life could continually recreate itself. But it was my director who said that you’re going up on November 11th. You need to get this up in front of people. I’m thinking this is a dumb idea, it’ll never work. And she well we’re going to find out November 11th. And it went well. So I thought, alright, maybe this the right time and… it will have a life. It’s the first time in my life I ever had my own vision, and watched it…
K7: Have a life off the page?
JS: Yeah. I never trusted anything before.
K7: Was there a defining moment when all the voices of doubt just went away and you said, I’m gonna do this?
JS: With the show?
K7: With the whole acting thing?
JS: I think so. I went to graduate school in Texas. And I only went for one year and then I did lots of summer theater. And someone had given me The Artist’s Way. And I was pretty sure it was the first thing I ever completed in my life. I remember holding it in my hands, and there were exercises at the end of each chapter. So I’m reading to and thinking ok the chapters are pretty good. And I start doing the exercises and I go through all the exercises that became pretty empowering for me. I’d gotten pretty comfortable with only going so far and then stopping. So, somehow that got me to the point where I said, I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do this stuff.
K7: And your family is OK with you being an artist?
JS: This is pretty new for the family. But no one is really into the arts. But they told me from 19, 22, 23, that I could go in any direction whatsoever. They watched my drop out of community college, which was painful for them. But when they are in a theater with other people and they are watching their son perform, then they are happy that there is at least direction.
K7: I find that that’s where families get it. If they are not on board with you being an artist. Once they see you on stage, and the affect their kid has on an audience, then they get it.. Being part of the whole experience of seeing the work. How is your show…
JS: The Most Mediocre Story Never Told.
K7: Right. How is your show going to be different from the other show folks will find along Theatre Row on Santa Monica Boulevard?
JS: Well, one, it’s a hour and five minutes long. And that’s on purpose. I want people to laugh a lot and recognize themselves in what’s going on. Maybe the message is for myself because I’m still trying to get stuff figured out.