Jens Shapeshifts As Theatrical Grande DameBy Michelle
January 31, 2007 - 8:04 PM
Salome Jens, who is currently working on the world premiere of the play Bad Hurt on Cedar Street, had a long and difficult road before she became known to Star Trek fans as the female shapeshifter who turned the tide of the Dominion War.
"Aaron Spelling saved me!" said the woman whom LA Weekly called "Los Angeles' grande dame of theater." "I appeared in one episode of a series that didnít get picked up. But he had to pay me for 10 and that paid for my house in Silver Lake." At the time Jens was struggling not only with her own alcoholism, but with a mother in the early stages of Alzheimer's, for whom the actress cared for more than a decade.
Jens reflected on turning points in her life, such as meeting John F. Kennedy as a young senator thinking about running for president. Kennedy told her that she needed to start reading The New York Times editorial page, saying, "'You are political...you transform the way people perceive themselves in their lives and it's important for you to know whatís going on.'" Jens recalled that at that moment, she decided that unless a character was bigger than herself, it wouldn't work.
A Broadway star in the 1960s, Jens went from The Actors Studio to the world premiere of an Arthur Miller play, appearing as a character said to be based upon Miller's wife Marilyn Monroe. The L.A. newspaper observed that now "she enjoys a cult following from her role as the Female Shapeshifter in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" but these days she is as well known as a director and teacher as an actress.
"I knew the film world had already passed me by because I was too old," she said. "Even the women who are 40 are playing 60." Nonetheless, she is still working at age 71 after feeling that she had lost too much time to drinking.
"I come from a generation that didnít know that alcoholism was a disease. Back then it was a moral issue," she explained. "So we really had something to deal with. Some of us were able to survive it and some of us died young."
Bad Hurt on Cedar Street, also a world premiere, tells the story of a family in Providence, Rhode Island, during an Easter weekend in 2001."It is about two generations of war heroes and the price the family has paid for two wars," Jens said. "This family is living with lies that have never been exposed. The only thing a human being canít handle is a lie, and the family begins to disintegrate from the withholding of the truth."
The play will be staged at Greenway Court Theatre in Los Angeles; ticket information is available at (323) 655-7679. LA Weekly has more information.