Off-the-Clock: Jennifer Damico
For thirty-one years and counting, Daly City’s Cow Palace Exhibition Hall turns into Victorian London–complete with the sound of carolers, fine British foods, period-appropriate attire and unique treasures. And at the center of this holiday merriment, you’ll find UCOP’s very own Jennifer Damico.
Damico has been a part of the The Great Christmas Dickens Faire since 2002. This year, she plays Aladdin’s mother in Aladdin and Cinderella meet the Monkey King. When not on stage she can be found singing with St. Swinden’s Folk Music Society outside Mr. Jefferies Fine Tailor shop or The Three Cripples Pub.
What’s the best part about being a part of the Dickens Faire?
The chance to make people smile. Times are tough. My family, friends and colleagues are all struggling with challenges both at work and at home. When people come to Dickens they are surrounded by the energy and bustle of Victorian London. They are submerged in holiday cheer as people on the streets call out “Happy Christmas.” Children are laughing and running and Father Christmas is on parade. No matter what is going on outside the Dickens Faire, people come there and get to set aside their worries for a few hours and enjoy the spirit of the holidays.
How much time do you spend rehearsing for the faire each year?
This year I rehearsed every Monday evening and 5 hours each Saturday and Sunday beginning in August.
How long have you been acting?
In order to tell you how long I’ve been acting I’d have to confess my age—and proper Victorian ladies never tell their age. I have performed almost every year since I was 6. I am formally trained by the San Francisco School of the Arts high school and have taken college courses and private workshops in acting.
What characters have you played in past fairs or productions?
Prior to my current Dickens character I played Betty Downy, schoolmistress of the Paddy West School of Seamanship at the Dickens Faire. I’ve performed in numerous plays and musicals over the years including roles as Ms. Mezepa in Gypsy, and Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. My very first acting role was as a Munchkin in the Wizard of Oz. From that one experience I was hooked.
Do you perform outside the Dickens Faire?
I perform at Renaissance fairs throughout Northern California and in pubs and clubs with the folk music troupe Traveller’s Union.
What’s the appeal of acting?
Acting gives me a chance to throw off intellect and really get in touch with my emotional and creative personality. I have a very technical job. I enjoy my work but for the most part it stimulates the analytical parts of my brain. Acting and music exercise the other part of my personality. Without it I would feel like I was weight lifting with only my left hand and never my right hand.
Any interesting stories you wish to divulge about the faire?
I think the best thing to say is “What happens at Faire stays at Faire.” I try to keep my professional and performance lives a little bit separate. It’s a fantastic time but everyone will have their own personal experience.
Anything else you’d like to share about the faire?
Lots of people think the Dickens Faire is a giant crafts fair but that is not an accurate picture. Sure, there is great shopping. But the core of the faire is entertainment. There are 4 or 5 stages, plays, musicals, dancers, and the whole world of Dickens literature on display and recreated for the audience.
When not in Victorian London, you’ll find Damico at UCOP’s Kaiser building where she is a manager of information systems in human resources. (Just don’t expect to find her wearing her costume to work.)
About the Dickens Faire:
Weekends beginning Friday, Nov. 27-Sunday, Dec. 20, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
San Francisco Cow Palace Exhibition Halls
Damico will perform on the Victoria and Albert stage at 11:30 and 3:30 each weekend in Aladdin and Cinderella meet the Monkey King
Find out more about the Dickens Faire at http://www.dickensfair.com/