Get to Know TEDxBroadway Speaker James Lecesne

Editor’s note: Before we once again ask, “What Is the Best Broadway Can Be?” on Monday, February 22, we’re asking our TEDxBroadway 2016 speakers to tell us a little more about themselves.

JamesLecesneJames Lecesne is the writer of the Academy Award-winning short film Trevor, which inspired the founding of The Trevor Project, the only nationwide 24-hour suicide prevention Lifeline for LGBTQ youth. James has written for television’s Further Tales of the City (Emmy nom), Will & Grace and Vicious, is the author of three novels for young adults, and is the executive producer of After the Storm, a documentary film that follows the lives of 12 young people in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

James is also a veteran performer, having recently been seen in the acclaimed off-Broadway production of The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, and the Broadway production of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man. The New York Times recently ranked James “among the most talented solo performers of his (or any) generation.”

Where are you originally from?
New Jersey. I’m not bragging.

What do you do for a living, and how did you get into that field?
Telling stories is what I do, and whether I’m working as an actor, writer, teacher or activist, chances are the story got me involved. As a high school student, I was lucky enough to have discovered the theater and, honestly, it saved my life. My first job was as an apprentice at a summer-stock theater on the Jersey Shore. My first show was Oklahoma! and I moved the scenery — in the dark. A week later, I was on stage in the light and singing my hear out. I’ve been at it ever since.

If you could bring any artist back from the dead for one more performance, who would it be?
Ruth Draper was a monologuist who lived and worked during the 1930s to 1950s. I first encountered recordings of her work when I was 19, and they’ve had a lasting effect on me. In fact, they determined the course of my storytelling life and the shape of the work that I’ve been doing ever since. She is my gold standard.

What book are you reading now?
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Deeply mysterious and intriguing work by one of the great storytellers of our time. I tweeted this quote the other day:“You don’t pass or fail at being a person, dear.”

Do you have a special Broadway memory?
I was working on Broadway, as an actor in the 2012 production of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man. The production was chock-full of stars, including Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones, Candice Bergen, Eric McCormack, John Larroquette and Michael McKean, among others. At about 5:00pm, I received a call from the stage manager that Michael McKean had been hit by a taxi and I was going on for him at 7:00pm. Thankfully, I was prepared, but I’ve never been more terrified — or more determined.

Follow James on Twitter, and purchase your TEDxBroadway ticket!

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