NJ native to play Chaim Potok character
When Miles G. Jackson takes the stage April 12 at New Brunswick’s George Street Playhouse, he will be continuing a journey that began just outside Atlantic City almost 20 years ago.
The 25-year-old actor has been performing since he was six in his hometown of Linwood — which occupies about 4.2 square miles and has a population of some 7,000.
In the early days, Jackson told NJJN in a phone interview, he organized plays and took parts just for the experience and for sheer fun.
Now, as a pro with his own Equity card since last fall, the young actor knows the stakes are higher but, he insisted, it is still great fun.
At GSP, Jackson will make his professional New Jersey debut playing the title role in My Name Is Asher Lev.
“I’ll be on stage almost all of the time, and two other actors — Bob Ari and Lena Kaminsky — will portray all the other male and female characters,” said Jackson.
All three performers are Jewish, he noted, which, in this case, is a plus.
“The play, based on a novel by Chaim Potok, is about a young Orthodox man who is also a great painter,” Jackson said. Conflict arises because his family, peers, and the entire community vehemently denounce him for pursuing an activity they deem frivolous at best, and evil at worst.
“What I love about the part is that Asher struggles not just with other people, but within himself, to reconcile two opposing value systems. I’m impressed that he can remain committed to both his art and his faith,” Jackson said.
“There is no rejection in him. He is a beautiful and complicated character,” he added.
Unlike his onstage alter ego, Jackson did not face opposition from his family when he chose an acting career; in fact, they were supportive.
“At Mainland Regional High School, I had a great drama teacher, Becky Sannino, and I competed against other schools in the New Jersey Drama and Forensics League. Instead of basketball or soccer, acting was my sport,” said Jackson.
After graduation, he went on to New York University, where he studied at the Stella Adler Studio, an NYU adjunct facility.
Following about three years in which he concentrated on independent films, he apprenticed at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in the Berkshires, where he appeared in a play called Mad Forest.
“That renewed my interest in theater, and in 2015 I costarred in 4000 Miles, a two-character play about culture clash.” He portrayed “a 21-year-old from the West Coast who bicycled cross country to see his grandmother in New York,” said Jackson.
“That play also was about a Jewish family,” he added.
When auditioning for Asher Lev, Jackson decided to stack the deck slightly in his favor. “I dressed in a way that would be consistent with what a young Orthodox man might wear.”
His own Jewish experiences include Hebrew school and a bar mitzva at Temple Emeth Shalom Congregation in Margate City, as well as a trip to Israel with his grandmother and older brother when he was seven.
Aaron Posner, author of the stage version of My Name Is Asher Lev, is well known to area residents, having been the artistic director of the Two River Theater in Red Bank from 2007 to 2010.