Actor Spotlight

Dallas-Fort Worth actor lends her voice to the conversation of funny women

DFW actor lends her voice to the conversation of funny women

Stage West presents A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit
Janielle Kastner and Thomas Ward in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City at Stage West. Photo by Evan Michael Woods
Dallas actor and playwright Janielle Kastner
Janielle Kastner Courtesy photo
Stage West presents A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit
Dallas actor and playwright Janielle Kastner

Though also a producer, director, and playwright, Janielle Kastner somehow still finds time to appear onstage in roles across Dallas and Fort Worth. Her latest is Karla, "a slouchy, foul-mouthed young comedian" in Halley Feiffer's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City (yes, that's the real title), currently having its regional premiere at Stage West.

In between rehearsal, Kastner has been busy directing Movies That Should Be Musicals at WaterTower Theatre's recent Detour festival, prepping for the next Shakespeare in the Bar production (Cymbeline, March 26 at The Wild Detectives and April 2 at Deep Ellum Art Co), and working on a commissioned play for Dallas Theater Center.

Before A Funny Thing... opens on March 8 (it runs through April 1), Kastner took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun, and sometimes ridiculous questions.

Name: Janielle Kastner

Role in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City: Karla

Previous work in the DFW area: I’ve acted in The Firestorm and Lisa, My Friend at Kitchen Dog Theater; The Pleasure Trials at Amphibian Stage Productions; Decline of Ballooning with The In-Laws; Uncle Vanya at Dallas Actors Lab; Seminar at Theatre Three; Romeo y Julieta at Cara Mia Theatre; and Pericles at Shakespeare Dallas.

Also I perform with and co-produce Shakespeare in the Bar, and direct Movies That Should be Musicals starring Brigham Mosley.

Hometown: Frisco

Where you currently reside: Junius Heights neighborhood of East Dallas

First theater role: Egyptian Woman #4, a role that I later found out the children's minister fabricated because of how badly I wanted to be in our church's Christmas play.

First stage show you ever saw: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Casa Mañana when I was teeny. I was enthralled with how they shrunk an actor by replacing him with a Ken doll. I was so young, visual perspective-shifting hadn’t even occurred to me as a concept. MAGIC.

Moment you decided to pursue a career in theater: When my high-school cheerleading coach told me I could no longer act in the fall play, I remember consoling myself by thinking, "Okay it's fine, I'll sit this semester out, and then I'll do theater for the rest of my life."

Most challenging role you’ve played: The role of Young Woman in Lisa, My Friend by Abe Koogler as a part of Kitchen Dog's Beckett series. A Stain Upon the Silence: Beckett's Bequest was the verbal, performative equivalent of a sprint — 15 minutes of consistent, emphatic talking with no break. I'd walk offstage with a runner's high (except without burning any calories or, you know, running).

Special skills: I am a very skilled pretend book reader and pretend TV-watcher onstage. Also a fantastic pretend onstage sleeper. You should definitely hire me for your laziest naturalistic roles.

Something you're REALLY bad at: Keeping track of small, important pieces of paper.

Current pop culture obsession: The podcasts Two Dope Queens and My Favorite Murder are bringing me the most joy right now — at the moment I'm exclusively interested in listening in on conversations with very funny women.

Last book you read: A Selfie as Big as the Ritz, a collection of short stories by Lara Williams.

Favorite movie(s): Any iteration of Pride & Prejudice: BBC, Keira Knightley, I’ll take 'em all.

Favorite musician(s): Some eclectic combo of The Killers, Sylvan Esso, Johnny Cash, and Taylor Swift would be my favorite musician.

Favorite song: I tend to love favorite songs to death — play them constantly on rotation, and then never listen to them again. Right now it's Lizzo's “Truth Hurts.” That one line especially, sung in my mind, under my breath, on repeat: "I put the siiiiiiiiING in single."

Dream role: A character who says the title of the play as one of their lines. I've always wanted to do that. What power!

Favorite play(s): Bachelorette by Leslye Headland, The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe, Lear by Young Jean Lee, Melancholy Play by Sarah Ruhl. And any of my plays that I most recently finished writing a draft of, but haven't yet heard out loud, is probably my favorite at the time.

Favorite musical(s): Any movie Brigham turns into a musical in our Movies That Should be Musicals series!

Favorite actors/actresses: Way too many to name, but I would walk through fire for Sandra Bullock.

Favorite food: Tex-Mex, fajitas, and a margarita.

Must-see TV show(s): The Good Place. It makes me laugh those out-of-the-blue, throwaway, one-syllable "Ha!"s I haven't felt since 30 Rock.

Something most people don't know about you: I hate picking a favorite anything. It is too hard, I love so many different things in different ways. This whole exercise has been so violent! How do people just have a favorite something?!

Place in the world you'd most like to visit: Greece.

Pre-show warm-up: I like to do fake yoga backstage, which essentially means lying on the ground, somehow exactly in the spot most inconvenient for everyone else to maneuver around you, twisting around in any direction that feels nice, and breathing. 

Favorite part about your current role: Getting to workshop Karla's jokes. I find her SO funny, and wish her all the success in whatever parallel universe she's in. I'd totally watch her comedy special.

Most challenging part about your current project: It's a small thing, but the simple fact that Karla doesn't politely smile and nod while strangers are talking to her was a huge challenge. We're very different social creatures, Karla and I, and it's given me the opportunity to take inventory of my nice-Southern-gal behavioral hardwiring.

Most embarrassing onstage mishap: That time my dagger fell out of my suit jacket and clattered to the ground right in front of Julius Caesar, while all of us Senators were trying to play it cool like we weren't about to stab him. #ettudagger?

Career you'd have if you weren't in theater: If not the theater, I’d double down on film or TV or radio or novels or cave-painting. I want to be where the stories are, forever. 

Favorite post-show spot: The Whataburger halfway between Fort Worth and Dallas, for a honey butter chicken biscuit.

Favorite thing about Dallas-Forth Worth: The tremendous creative blank space available to take an artistic risk, invent something new, and then have it turn into a Thing in its own right.

Most memorable theater moment: The first time one of my plays was read aloud in a staged reading. Sitting through the first five minutes with an audience for the first time was the gnarliest, twistiest, costliest experience. Heart in my throat, etc. And then everyone laughed, for real laughed, at the same time, at the thing that I wrote. It was the best feeling in the world.