We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenna Pastuszek and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenna, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I’ve been thinking a lot about risk lately, and how there must be a scale on which we all fall in terms of the amount of risk we’re willing to take in situations, in business opportunities, in relationships, and in life. I look back on my early adulthood (end of high school-early 20s) and think I played it way too safe- I drew within the lines. I wonder what I might have found had I dared to risk being a little messier, standing up for myself and what I believed in, and explored going against the grain earlier in my career. Over the past two years, with the help of my coaches Jen Waldman, Pete Shepherd, and Joan Lader, I’ve started taking more risks, specifically taking the risk to show up unapologetically as myself, to say what I’m chasing, and to reach out and connect with the people with whom I want to work. Now, I see more forward progress and significantly more traction/momentum simply by putting myself and my work out there for more people to see. It’s easier for the people for whom my work is for to find me when I risk putting it out there. Sure, in doing this I also risk rejection, but that’s been worth it (and maybe after a while in the theatre industry, you just get used to it. :-)). Taking the risk to become more visible is a risk that has paid off- it has led me to connect with those for whom my work is for, and it’s helped me streamline my business offerings and the things to which I devote my time and energy.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I call myself an art-preneur, a combination of artist and entrepreneur. As an artist, you have to create your own work, and/or create opportunities for connection with those who may have projects and possibilities for collaboration. I’ve learned to do all kinds of performing jobs- everything from singing demos of new musicals to commercial voiceover to professional theatre to cabaret to developmental workshops to being a magician’s assistant (yes, I got sawed in half). Seeking a variety of storytelling employment has helped me learn to put myself out there and risk rejection in order to work on the things and with the people with whom I’d like to work. The risk of hearing another “No” is worth it if it means getting to connect with someone and/or something amazing along the way. I think that any performing jobs can teach performers about themselves, and since I’m always striving to learn more about myself, it’s a great profession because it constantly challenges me to think and expand. When not performing, I continue my artistry off the stage by writing and maintaining a blog- I love writing and think that it’s a great exercise to figure out how to show up as vibrantly as I do on stage on a page. Writing is a great way for artists to flex self-expression. In order to support myself in between theatre gigs, I run a private voice studio, where I use my voice to help other people find theirs. Alongside my business partner, Tim Russell, our company, Innovative Voice Studio, has grown not only to work with clients one on one but also build a community of growth minded people and sound making voice nerds to discover and celebrate all of the ways in which we can use our voices and our storytelling to collectively make the world a better place. During the pandemic, our business has grown from solely serving NYC-based artists to artists from Poland to Portland. It’s been incredible. At IVS, we’ve imagineered and redefined what a voice studio can be- it doesn’t have to just be about teaching proper singing technique (although that is something that we’re passionate about)- it can also be about creating confident artists who take ownership of their artistry, connecting them with each other, and cheerleading and championing their work. I’m proud of being a true teaching artist. I am my best self when I am teaching and performing equally. I am a better performer because I teach others how to express themselves, and I am a better teacher because I experience the same situations many of my clients find themselves in. Powerful storytelling is effective on and off the stage- it inspires curiosity, action, and connection.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh man- so hard to choose. With New York City, the possibilities are endless!!! There are quite literally millions of people so you can observe them all just by riding the subway and walking down the street- it’s the best. I always say you’ll never be the best dressed, the worst dressed, or the weirdest dressed in NYC. 🙂 We’d go see a Broadway show, of course, and if it was a visit during the summer, would head to Central Park to catch a show at the Delacourte (The Public does outdoor free Shakespeare in the summer, and it’s amazing). A trip up to the Cloisters is a must- it’s simply stunning up there. I love doing things that help me shift perspective- looking down on Manhattan from the top (like at the Cloisters) or experiencing live art in the middle of Central Park at sunset or even hopping on a boat or ferry and looking at the city from the water. These different viewpoints all help to fully understand and appreciate a place. I am a chocolate chip cookie enthusiast, so we’d have to do a cookie taste test- hit up Schmackary’s, Levain, Chip, and any other place who’s putting up a challenge to be the best cookie in NYC. I live for a deep life chat, so there’d be plenty of those at a rooftop bar over a glass of wine, a sidewalk cafe at brunch, a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge or down the Highline, and snuggled up on a couch in my apartment. I LOVE a potluck, so I’d invite a bunch of friends over to break bread over a mismosh of dishes- it doesn’t matter if they compliment each other- everyone bring whatever their signature dish is, and we’ll get to enjoy what everyone does best. Joy just tastes good, you know?
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Absolutely. I’d love to give a shout out to my colleague, friend, and boss Ellen Lettrich and The Fund for College Auditions. Ellen believes and supports me as a teacher and offered me the incredible opportunity to coach her college-bound scholars this year.
TFCA advocates for diversity and equity in College level theatre training programs, focusing on but not limited to those who identify with groups that are historically and currently underrepresented in theatre, film, and television. Their mission is to provide support for these high school artists to be able to afford applying, auditioning for, and attending collegiate theatre programs in order to aid in the diversification of theatre, film, and television at the professional level and in reducing the systemic inequalities that persist in those fields.
Instagram: @thejennap @innovativevoice
Facebook: Jenna Pastuszek
Corinne Louie, Jordan Stanley, Stephanie Cowan, Adam Norgaard, Michael Bonasio, Shani Hadjian, Keisha Bea