The Goodman Theatre’s “Brigadoon” actress talks Chicago theater and motherhood

“Brigadoon,” the mystical tale of an 18th century Scottish village which only appears once every century for a single day, opens soon at The Goodman Theatre. This fresh new production stars Chicago actress Jennie Sophia, who spoke with me about her theater roots, how motherhood changes everything, and the time that riding on the L almost induced labor.

You’re a Chicago-based actress, did you grow up locally?

I actually grew up in Indiana but came into the city – that’s where I fell in love with theatre, seeing Chicago’s shows. I did a bunch regionally and made my way to Chicago where I’ve been for the past seven years.

What was your first experience with Chicago theater?

Back when I was in fifth grade or so, I’d come in to see the touring companies, like “Beauty and the Beast,” “The King & I,” “Camelot,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Les Miz.” Drury Lane was a theater I went to quite often; my grandparents would take me there.

That’s a good introduction.

Yeah, it was incredible.

You’re a recent new mom. Congratulations!

I am! Thank you! It’s the most incredible journey of my life and one of the hardest journeys of my life, especially navigating being a mom and going back to work, but it’s so worth it.

Has having a baby changed what types of roles you’ll take on?

I would say it opens me up and grounds me. I’m still bordering between ingénue, leading lady, and mother roles – I can kind of go back and forth – but what I’ve noticed is that the stakes of my life have made everything so important, so I’m really drawn to the roles that are more passionate, overcoming lots of obstacles. When you add a little one to your life, all of a sudden life is so much more valuable and precious. And you can dream about having a child and you can witness it, but it’s not until you have a child that you know the depths of love and what you’re willing to do for your own flesh and blood. It’s really kind of nice to use that now in my acting.

Is it true you went on an audition on your due date?

Yes, that’ll probably be the story I’ll tell until I’m old and gray! I was seven days overdue and my agent called me and said, “They’d like to see you…can you go?” And I said, you know what, if I haven’t had the baby, sure. I guess we’ll have to play it by ear. It seemed like every time I took a train downtown I’d have Braxton Hicks. So I was like, well, I’m gonna take the train to the audition and maybe the additional help would get things going, and I’ll take the train back and maybe I’ll have this baby! As I look back on it, I worried would they be able to see me as a Fiona, as a leading lady when I was humongous and had this big belly in front of me when I did this love scene? But I think it’s fascinating how it all played out, the humor that it brought, and they got to see what I’m made of.

It was for this role?

It was for “Brigadoon,” for this role.

It wasn’t for like, Blue Man Group or anything where you had to pogo stick?

[Laughs] Oh, wow, no, no pogo sticking. Singing high notes, though. Lots of high notes. That was the thing in the room, we were all laughing, like “Is her water going to break if she sings another high C?”

But this isn’t your first spin with “Brigadoon.”

No, it’s not. I did it in summer stock, about seven or eight years ago [at Light Opera Works] and then about five or six years ago.

Does it feel different each time?

It does. This production is so brand new to me. I’m discovering more things about this show because [director Rachel Rockwell] has been given the freedom and the license to add, to fill in the background. We actually have a playwright working on a new adaptation for the script. The score isn’t changing, but the script is, so this time around it’s really, really fulfilling because I get to flesh out a lot of new ideas that make the story even stronger – the beauty, and the pure romance, the devotion to family and faith…

This production of “Brigadoon” is its first major revival in 34 years. And The Goodman is a pretty fun place for something like that.

It’s been so fascinating going through each department and catching glimpses of it all, from the costumes to the set design to the stage management, the lighting and sound designs. I’m probably gonna just have a moment where I fall to my knees during tech when it all starts coming together, to see what a beautiful production I’m a part of.

Do you see a career in the arts for your little one, or can you see you and your husband pushing him towards, you know, trade school?

If he could navigate both, that would be my dream. Because I love the arts. Both my husband and I are musical people and it’s definitely a huge part of our lives and will be part of his. I hope he gets to enjoy that with us. I also know how much of a struggle that is with family life and so forth. But the one thing I love about my parents, they always let me follow my dreams and I was free to do so. That’s important to me, that he’ll be free to make the same choices. That’s my goal as a parent.

What shows are you excited to see with your baby in a few years?

Drury Lane is so family-oriented. They use Rachel Rockwell a lot, and she loves incorporating kids because of what they bring to a show. My dream is to do “The Secret Garden,” and [son Gavin] could play Colin, and I could be Lily. Oh boy. And hopefully with Rachel Rockwell directing it. I’ll just put that out there to the universe.

And now it’s gonna be in print.

There you go. Awesome!

Brigadoon runs June 27th- August 3rd, 2014

For more info and ticket information, call 312.443.3800 or visit

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