As Seen In The Hallways: Jake Cohen, Professional Theater
By Esme Bale
Jake Cohen, a third year in Dawson’s Professional Theatre program, came by The Plant to fangirl over William Shakespeare and discuss the ups and downs of pursuing art.
Jake shows up to the Plant space dutifully wearing a T-shirt for a musical. With green tea in his hands and a worried expression on his face, we sit down to have a chat about life. “I think I am just trying to stop being sad,” he tells me, “I think I decide to be sad a lot of the time.”
I met Jake in high school. We were both part of a Shakespeare acting group. I had braces and overly plucked eyebrows. He was a tall lanky boy who seemed to be born to recite Shakespeare. I looked up to him shyly. We all knew his talent was well beyond the high school auditorium.
“I had never had any friends in my life,” he explains, “And then when I started high school, I started doing theatre, just because I wanted to be around people.” He was the unofficial leader of the group. “I love that there’s kind of a community of people who love Shakespeare,” Jake answers when I question him about his undeniable love for this dead man, “Shakespeare, of all theatre, brings people together.” His favourite Shakespeare play is the classic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. He considers it to be quite a contemporary play since it deals with the younger generation suffering the consequences of an older generation. “I think we’re all kind of feeling that,” Jake points out.
Currently, Jake is working on yet another Shakespeare play, Bad Hamlet. It is not the Hamlet you probably read in high school but the first quarto edition. “[It’s] basically an alternate version that Shakespeare wrote. We don’t really know why but it’s there and it is very weird and it’s a lot shorter,” explains Jake, who will be playing the desired role of Hamlet. With the play coming up soon, November 11th to November 23rd, Jake’s life has little room for non theatre related things. “Something I have a hard time with is not being a theatre person all the time. I feel like that is so much of my identity that when I try to step back I’m like ‘Who the fuck is this person who is not doing theatre?’” Jake confides. He struggles to keep his personal and theatre life separate but ardently believes it’s important to do so. He becomes very serious as he tells me “It’s not healthy to bring too much of the real stuff that is happening in your life into your work. As any kind of artist, your work is always very personal, it’s personal by nature, so if you start going into rehearsal and you’re like ‘Oh, I’m going to channel my sadness!’, that can get very emotionally unhealthy.”
Pursuing theatre is a scary path and Jake is well aware of that. Ultimately, he is pleased with his decision to study Professional Theatre at Dawson. “I am grateful that I got a space to discover who I am as an artist and as a person,” muses Jake. He sees the value of failure in the learning experience. “I’d rather get a sixty five but really get my hands dirty and learn a bunch of really cool stuff than have an assignment that is not challenging and I get a hundred. It’s like ‘Cool, I just wasted my time!’” justifies Jake.
When I asked Jake about the future, he said he doesn’t really have any other plans but to be working. He just wants to be making enough money as a full time actor, however that may take form. As a young actor, he realizes he is far from being at a point in his career to ask for anything else. He contemplates about the fact that some people think bigger, with dreams of Broadway, but he does not want to do that. “I feel like it is such a screwy industry that I just want to be working and getting better,” he explains.
Jake is aware that choosing to be an artist involves accepting your fate as a suffering artist. It’s hard to make money. There’s a small success rate. It’s emotionally exhausting. If he could do anything else, he would. “That’s one of the things you spend a lot of time thinking about. What else can I fucking do with my life thats not this stupid industry?” contemplates Jake, “If the answer is nothing, then you’re on the right path. But that has to be your answer, because it’s such a bullshit way to live.”
But Jake is undeniably an actor.
Go see Jake and other Dawson Theatre students perform Bad Hamlet between November 11th and November 23rd!