Bring on the bright lights

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 10, 2011

NATCHEZ — Whether it’s the bright lights on Broadway, limelight of Hollywood or the local lights of community theater, Janey Dixey’s heart will always be on stage.

Dixey, 18, is a Natchez native and a senior at the Mississippi School for the Arts in Brookhaven who is studying theatre.

Two weeks ago, she was selected as the single student from Mississippi to compete at the English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition.

Email newsletter signup

She and 59 other students from across the country will compete against each other in November during an all-expense paid trip to New York.

Top prize is a scholarship for summer study at the Royal Shakespeare Academy in London.

Dixey said hearing the news gave her a good kind of shock.

“I was blown away, and I was really, really proud of myself,” Dixey said.

“I had convinced myself I might not win so wouldn’t feel bad.”

At the state-level competition, in which 16,000 students have participated in annually since 1983, Dixey said everyone had to recite a monologue, sonnet and perform a “cold read” — all from the works of William Shakespeare.

Dixey, who attended Trinity Episcopal before transferring to Brookhaven as a junior, said she grew to love Shakespeare once she got used to it, although she found it complicated at first.

“I love the use of description and the way everything has a rhythm. It’s really beautiful,” she said.

Dixey said she chose a monologue from character Joan La Pucelle in Shakespeare’s history play, “Henry VI Part 1.” The scene she chose depicts Joan of Arc’s last speech to the English Army before they burn her at the stake.

“I wanted to do something different and powerful, not the classic Shakespeare of woman in love,” she said.

Dixey said to get into the role of Joan of Arc she did what she always does on stage.

“I sort of erect (the character) off of life experiences — not on my own experiences — but on how I would feel,” she said.

“I put myself mentally in the space of a character and think what I would do in their predicament.”

Sensing how others would feel and building emotional characters from words on a page is part of why Dixey loves acting, she said.

She takes inspiration from all over, based on a piece of advice from her mother, who is also an actress.

“Take a little something from everybody,” Dixey said, reciting her mother’s line.

She said she enjoys and is good at reading people, whether it is someone she is close to or someone she meets once. Collections of other people in her real life inspire her characters.

“I take something, little idiosyncrasies, and store it away for later and then revisit (the memory) when I’m building my character,” she said.

“It could be people I meet walking down the street,” she said.

If Dixey does not win the first prize trip at the national competition to attend Shakespeare school in London, she plans on attending The University of Southern Mississippi for an undergraduate degree in theater.

After undergrad studies, she said she will probably move away from the South, but that is as far ahead as she has envisioned so far.

As far as career aspirations, this drama queen is low maintenance. Her only insistence is that she spends the rest of her life acting in some capacity.

“If I don’t make money (acting) it’s not very much of a big deal; I’ll enjoy my own little pursuit of happiness,” she said.

“Even if it’s on a tiny stage in the middle of nowhere I want to act.”

Janey Dixey is the daughter of Rusty and Tammye Dixey.