Meet The Ensemble: Maren Jystad-Spar

Photo courtesy of Dan Francis Photography.
Photo courtesy of Dan Francis Photography.

Jamestown native, Maren Jystad- Spar has been involved with Theatre B since 2011. The first paid employee apart from Carrie, Maren has also done some acting, costume design, and worked the box office.

Theatre B (TB): Tell us a little about yourself, hometown and such.
Maren Jystad-Spar (MJS): I grew up in Jamestown ND, went to Jamestown High School and graduated in 2005. I chose Concordia partly because it was all I really knew. My father graduated from Concordia and my home pastor as well. There was a lot of talk about Concordia. Once I got there I had a voice scholarship, so I was doing a lot of music stuff, and it didn’t feel like the right fit. I started taking theatre classes my second semester, and those just felt like home.

TB: When did you begin doing theatre?
MJS: I did some theatre in middle school, high school, and my hometown church did some shows as well. I performed with the art center in Jamestown early on also. So I have been involved in some way or another for a long time. The first production I remember performing in was Guys and Dolls Jr.

TB:  Where does your artistry lie?
MJS: Most of my training is in musical theatre, but I have greatly enjoyed having the opportunity to perform in straight shows with Theatre B.

TB: How does theatre inspire you?
MJS: I think of theatre as a great opportunity to tell important stories. Theatre allows audience members to have experiences they wouldn’t normally, especially with Theatre B. Many of the stories we pick are challenging, we work hard to inform audiences and do it in a way that allows people to see that human emotional aspect of it.

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Maren and Scott Horvik in ‘Becky’s New Car’. Photo by Perry Rust.

TB: How many shows have you done with B?
MJS: As an actress I have done two. Well, I was Theatre B’s first paid employee outside of Carrie, which was a ball. I have also worked in the box office and I designed costumes once.

TB: Do you have a favorite role?
MJS: Yes. I played Kate in Kiss me Kate when I was in high school. That was by far my favorite role. I loved the story, the music and the challenging parts of the role. The score was very hard. I had a couple crazy fast costume changes, and I sang a high B flat in the air hanging upside down on someone’s arms, so it was pretty fantastic. Knowing what I know now, I wish I could do that again.

Becky’s New Car also stands out. It was really rewarding to feel safe and appreciated on stage. I was encouraged to try things I wanted and to follow my intuition.

TB: What has been the biggest challenge so far in your artistic career?
MJS: My senior thesis was a multitude of projects. I did an educational one-woman show about body image, friends and everything else. It was 45 minutes and had time for reflection at the end. I found a playwright and received a grant, then we had the flood of ‘09 and the campus shut down. Most of the area schools were cancelled, which meant my performances were also cancelled. Luckily, I was able to schedule three back to back performances at Carl Ben elementary. It was just crazy: I was still taking classes, dealing with the flood, and performing a one woman show three times in one day. However, it was so worth it. David Wintersteen was my professor at the time, and he introduced me to fellow ensemble member Pam Strait, who ended up directing the piece, and this is before I was an ensemble member.

Maren and Marty Fankhanel in 'The Underpants'. Photo by Michael Benedict.
Maren and Marty Fankhanel in ‘The Underpants’. Photo by Michael Benedict.

TB: Greatest achievement so far?
MJS: I feel like I’m still learning, like there is so much more to do.

TB: Is there anything specific that determines your interest in role?
MJS: I like to do things that I would never do in real life.

TB: Do you have a dream role? And why?
MJS: I would love to do Keely and Du or Stop Kiss. I think both stories are so critical to our society right now.

TB: What is your favorite thing about being apart of the ensemble at B?
MJS: I like that there’s an intentional family. That we are encouraged to have opinions that differ and we work through that conflict. That compromise happens most of the time, but even if it doesn’t, we can agree to disagree and remain appreciative and respectful of one another as artists. We’re a family that works together.

Interviewer: Corin Puhalla, Theatre B Promotions Intern