Do you recognize this Petaluma woman’s voice?
Jennifer March has been able to live multiple lives thanks to her job. One day she’s a character falling in love and the next she could be living the life of someone who runs on adrenaline in a thriller. March is able to do all of this through countless hours of work, lending her voice to theatrical performances, on the radio and as an audiobook narrator.
And one of the perks of character shape-shifting and voice work is that she’s able to work from her recording booth at her home in Petaluma. The booth is an upgrade from the soundproof closet she once used.
“It was hard because there's a window there and I didn't have a door. The chickens would start squawking or the neighbors are blowing leaves, or I don't know ... if stuff happens, I could hear it,” she said.
March has lived in many cities in California but has been a Sonoma County resident for 25 years. She has always been interested in storytelling more than anything, theater was a dream she lost touch with until 2006, when her friend Karen took her to a workshop in San Francisco where participants go through exercises where they are living the life of their dreams.
During this time, March had a busy life and was raising a family.
“At that time in my life, I was fully occupied with raising my two boys, pretty much on my own. My youngest, Tommy, was diagnosed with autism a few years before and I was buried in all that that entails,” she said. “I was ... just lost in mothering a special needs child and not doing much for myself.”
She credits her friend Karen for helping her "unbury" herself. The workshop helped March reconnect with her love of theater and acting and made her realize she wanted to pursue Readers Theatre.
Readers Theatre was founded by William Adams in London in the 1970s. It was brought to the United States around that time and March first learned about it in 1977. Readers Theatre is a combination of oral interpretation and conventional theater where performances are stories, plays, poems, novels, essays, reports, articles and letters interpreted on stage.
Essentially it means performing scripts as you read them.
“You just need people to read, it's not hard. You don't have a stage, you don't have costumes, but you can do this thing with literature and bring it alive,” she said. “I always loved it. So, then I went home (from the workshop), and I decided I'm going to start a Readers Theatre group.”
March first discovered her love of performing in high school when she took an oral interpretation class and did some exercises reading literature out loud for the class. This led to her joining her high school speech club. She acted in school plays and went on to study theater at San Francisco State University. After she graduated, acting became more of a hobby.
Taking to the Petaluma stage
She put her plan into action and helped start Petaluma Readers Theatre, a group of readers, writers, actors and directors with a passion for bringing literature to the stage.
“We like having our way with words, letting words have their way with us, and sharing the fun, dramatic results with you,” the theater’s website reads.
Since 2009, March and the Petaluma Readers Theatre group would meet and pick a theme they wanted to base a performance around. For example, if they settled on the theme of “childhood,” the group would source books, literature, plays and anything with words to help illustrate the theme in a performance. Sometimes they would solicit stories and poems from local authors to include in the show, too. It was a great way to promote local works by local creatives by giving their pieces exposure.
The group’s past productions have included, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame“ where the members performed “Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic, Sung in the Year 1888,” a poem by Ernest Thayer and Abbott and Costello’s “Who's on First?” “Beats of the Heart” had the team combine personal stories with Shakespeare’s sonnets. “Rebel Voices” took a political turn when the Reader’s Theatre performed excerpts from Howard Zinn's “People's History of the United States: 1942-Present.” The show was produced by Rob Urbinati.
The group’s next performance is set for mid-August when it’ll dive into "Our Town" by Thornton Wilder. The story takes place in 1901 and 1913 in the fictional American town of Grover's Corners where the characters learn the lesson of embracing and appreciating the value of life itself.
March was also involved with the Petaluma Shakespeare Co. where she played small parts in the plays.
To this day, she enjoys watching others perform.