Seriously, is there anything Jean Sergent can’t do? Not only is she a very active member of the Wellington theatre scene (you may have seen her performing with the wonderful Bacchanals at BATS recently), she’s also a full-time honors student and, perhaps most importantly, has two of the most beautiful cats in the world.
All right, let’s do the basics first: name/what you do when you’re not working?
My name is Jean Puawananga Sergent, and I am a full-time honours student in sociology and psychology at Victoria University. I’m also an actor, mostly in theatre but some radio, film, and television as well. I’ve turned my hand to writing, producing, and stand up comedy from time to time. I am also a fairly obnoxious CatDad.
What’s an upcoming project that you’re jazzed about?
I had an incredibly busy 2013, where I variously rehearsed, produced, or performed in 8 shows as well as finishing my BA. In 2014 I’ve just finished two back-to-back Bacchanals seasons (All’s Well That Ends Well and Once We Built A Tower). So for the rest of this year, I am really looking forward to having a bit of a break from theatre while I focus on completing my honours. That said, I’m unlikely to turn down any shows that really excite me. So with all the best intentions in the world, I am most looking forward to whatever the Bacchanals do next (and we’ve got some ideas up our sleeves), and to relaunching my comedy confessional show, Corner Diary. But good things take time/get done in a rush and work out fine anyway.
You’re an active member of The Bacchanals, can you tell us a little bit about that and what it involves?
Being a part of The Bacchanals is like being in a family, although during production time it feels like being in very intense relationships with 15 different people all at once. Ok that might make it sound stressful but actually it is extraordinarily rewarding, emotionally and spiritually. Artistically as well, of course! Everything about The Bacchanals has the feeling of being part of a commune, as much as David Lawrence also gets to stretch his muscles as a benevolent dictator. I’ve been involved with the last 9 Bacchanals shows, acting in 8 of them and doing some set design for Other People’s Wars which I wasn’t in because of school. As well as acting I’ve also contributed to music and costuming. Being in the Bacchanals involves bringing your entire skill set, not just your performing chops. We do everything collectively, it’s all about pitching in and helping out and having faith. More is more!
Like an incredibly busy amazing person, you’re also studying at Victoria doing your honours, what is it about your studies that really excites you?
So I’m almost 30 and I’ve just started my honours year, and the thing I am enjoying the most at the moment is the elevation of status. Honestly. It feels great to use the staff room, and to be actually teaching classes, and not feel like a shy foundling wandering around hoping no one asks me for proof that I belong. Something about feeling closer to the top has also lifted my study game a bit, and all the foundation work of the undergraduate degree really feels like it has stuck and moulded my mind. I’m so glad I waited until my mid-20s to go to university, because otherwise I don’t think I would be doing what I’m doing now, and I love it so much. Talk to me in September when I’m pulling my hair out and crying 24 hours a day, and see if I still feel the same way.
If you had a loudspeaker down on Cuba Street at a busy lunchtime, what would be saying?
“READ P.G. WODEHOUSE, YOU LOOK LIKE YOU COULD USE A GOOD LAUGH”
What do you think is one of the things most challenging for Wellington right now?
The way the cost of living is destroying people’s motivation to enjoy the wonders we have on offer. I don’t have any money so I never go to things unless I get free tickets. And that is a difficult realisation as someone who relies on an active and engaged audience in order to produce commercially viable art. Living wage! Lower rents!
What’s the best piece of advice ever given to you?
“Just do it now”. It is the number one most useful thing for your productivity.
Where’s your favourite spot in Wellington?
My favourite spot in Wellington is the shared grave of 5 Sisters of Mercy in the Mount Street Cemetery. It’s a lovely warm flat expanse of concrete with a beautiful view over Aro, Mt Cook, Mt Victoria, Roseneath, and the harbour. It’s me and my friends’ spot for “goth lunch” which is essentially cigarettes, coffee, and telling jokes.