Meet The Artist: Jeff Miller

10842278_10153167934399627_1947977255365427274_oJeff Miller is making his first appearance in a Theatre B main stage production, playing Kyle in The Sweet New.  You may have seen Jeff read the part of Kyle during last season’s workshop of The Sweet New.  He is a lover of dogs, and spends his free time playing music and watching HGTV.

Theatre B (TB): Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Jeff Miller (JM): Well, I’m originally from Fergus Falls, MN. I graduated from Concordia College in 2014 with degrees in Mathematics and Psychology – I’ve always liked numbers and patterns and had a knack for math, I also wanted to learn more about what makes people do what they do. Right now I work at Concordia as an Institutional Research Associate, working with numbers all day every day.

TB: When did you first start performing?
JM: I remember being 4 or 5 years old and going to a friend’s house where we would stand on the hearth and put on “concerts” with our tennis racket guitars, it was pretty great. I have always been musically inclined, I was in band and choir growing up and music is still a big part of my life now. I did a little bit of theatre in middle school and high school. My first role was playing one of the “pick-a-little ladies” in a production of The Music Man when I was in the eighth grade.

TB: What was your arts involvement like in college?
JM: I didn’t really get involved until I took an introduction to theatre class my sophomore year. Then I decided to do some backstage work sophomore and junior year – I was a spotlight operator for the musicals. Senior year I decided to audition and was cast as Mr. McQueen in Urinetown and I performed in a few student directed pieces. I was also on the forensics team in college, which was a really great experience for me.

Photo by Kensie Wallner Photography.
Photo by Kensie Wallner Photography.

TB: Would our audience members have seen you in anything locally recently?
JM: I played Benvolio in MSUM’s production of Romeo and Juliet and read the part of Kyle during the reading of The Sweet New last season.

TB: Why were you interested in being a part of The Sweet New?
JM: I was interested in this piece for a couple of reasons. I, myself, am transgender. I identify as transmasculine which, to me, means I was assigned female at birth and I fall more on the masculine spectrum, but I don’t fully identify as a man. I’m more non binary.

Kyle, the character I play is also transgender. I think that accurate representation of trans individuals in the media is really important. Often times transgender characters will be played by cisgender individuals, and that is really disheartening to me. I have really appreciated this opportunity to play a trans character accurately.

I’ve also known Ray (the playwright) for a while and have enjoyed performing his piece.

Jeff & Shea Hittman in The Sweet New, Photo by Kensie Wallner Photography.
Jeff & Shea Hittman in The Sweet New, Photo by Kensie Wallner Photography.

TB: Have you found the portrayal of trans experiences in the piece to be relatable?
JM: Yes, I think that a lot of people would relate to Kyle’s experiences in the piece. Fortunately my family was really accepting of my transition, but that is not always the case. There is a lot of stigma that comes with being trans. People often feel that there is something inherently wrong with trans individuals and you can see that happening a little bit in The Sweet New. Overall, I think Ray has written a piece that a lot of folks can relate to – the human relationships at the core of the piece are universal.

TB: What has been the highlight of your Theatre B experience?
JM: Working with this cast and creative team has been great. I knew most of the cast before we started working on this project, and that added element of familiarity was helpful during the rehearsal process. Everyone involved in the project has been really welcoming and wonderful to work with.

TB: Anything else you’d like the audience to know?
JM: This piece deals with some difficult subject matter, audience members should try to embrace any discomfort they might feel. We all have internalized biases against others, and as a society we need to acknowledge them so we can start to overcome them.