When asked about her early childhood development, Jesse’s dad is fond of saying that she started speaking in complete sentences at 18 months…and never shut up. It seems only natural then, that she would have found a warm welcome and second home at the Cumberland Co. Playhouse in her hometown of Crossville, Tennessee, beginning her career as an orphan in Annie, and continuing a Performance and Tech Internship at CCP through high school (Godspell, Working).
While it was hard to leave both homes, she enjoyed playing many exciting roles in undergrad at the Clarence Brown Theatre (A Christmas Carol, Fiddler on the Roof, The Matchmaker) and graduated with her BA in Theatre from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
For the next 5 years, Jesse worked at regional theaters all over the country (Derby Dinner Playhouse, Cornwell’s Dinner Theatre, Darkhorse Theatre), and then returned to the CCP to join the staff as a company member, and oddly enough, a scenic art intern for the next 3 years.
Her next great adventure came when she was accepted on full scholarship at Ohio University in the Professional Actor Training Program. She was thrilled to get to tackle such projects as The Grapes of Wrath, The Trojan Women, and Love’s Labour's Lost in school, while also working closely with the Playwrighting Department and New Work workshops (Inherit the Whole). She also worked on some student films, (Trailerpark, Blute, Death of the Cool), that have gone to several film festivals, including Lake Placid. One of the most rewarding aspects of her education was the joy she found in teaching others. As part of her Graduate Assistantship, she taught Freshman BFA and Sophomore-level acting classes, for majors and non-majors alike. She discovered that you can truly only learn something bone deep when you have to teach it to others - a most valuable lesson which has ultimately altered the trajectory of her career.
After three years of hard work and a new definition of success, she earned her MFA, and with representation waiting at Charles Kerin Associates, she made the move to New York City. She was just thrilled to work in town with such organizations as the McCarter Theatre (for Youth), New York Classical Theatre, and Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, but equally as excited to begin what would be a wonderful long term relationship with Big League Productions on several of their National and International Tours (Guys & Dolls – USA; My Fair Lady – USA, Canada, Singapore, China).
As so often happens in this business, her networking pool unexpectedly yielded an exciting new job prospect, and so Ms. Graham now resides in Troy, Alabama where she has spent the last 2 years as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Troy University. She is working with a very diverse student body with a wide range of skill levels, and has the privilege to teach a wide variety of classes (Acting I, Acting III, Movement I, Introduction to Theatre, Acting the Song, The Theatre Professional) and workshops (Audition, Video Submission, Stage Combat, Michael Chekhov Techniques) while also directing several season productions (Our Vital Struggle, Comedy of Errors). She continues to fill up her toolbox by currently working towards her teaching certificate in Michael Chekhov Movement Technique from the Great Lakes Michael Chekhov Consortium, and has just finished her 2nd semester of ASL (American Sign Language) at Troy.
Ms. Graham is a passionate member of the theatre community as a whole, both academically and professionally. She is a staunch advocate of the necessity and usefulness of the Arts in both education and experience. She looks forward to continuing her own education through the artists and collaborators that she meets, and, as always, welcomes the next challenge on the horizon.