We had the good fortune of connecting with Helen Jane Planchet and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Helen Jane, why did you pursue a creative career?
From a young age, my parents- perhaps unknowingly- inspired my love of theatre and the arts. My mother took me to see Beauty and the Beast in theatres when it came out and even though I was only 1 or 2 years old I was transfixed by it. She took me to see it dozens of times because in her words- it was a hot, muggy summer in New Orleans, she was pregnant, and it was a cheap activity because the movie was in the dollar theatres, so she’d take me almost every day. Unlike most children my age, I would sit and quietly and watch the movie. No squirming, no crying, just silently staring at the screen. And my love of the movie didn’t stop at the dollar theatre. My mother sewed all of Belle’s costumes for me. When it came out on VHS, I would watch it constantly and act it out in front of the television (sometimes with my parents playing the supporting roles).
And Beauty and the Beast wasn’t the only movie in my repertoire. I would act out and sing while watching many other movies ranging from Disney’s the Hunchback of Notre Dame to the Wizard of Oz. Once again, my parents spoiled me with creativity. My mother painted a cardboard box to look like Dorothy’s farmhouse and my dad would pick up the box with me in it and shake it like I was in the twister that brought Dorothy to Oz.
They also took me to live performances of musicals like Annie and Beauty and the Beast. While I was a very shy child, I saw those performances and was so enamored that one day I took a chance and broke out of my shell by joining my middle school’s dance troupe. While I was a mediocre dancer at best, I knew performing was what brought me joy.
My middle school arranged a trip for the drama and dance troupe kids to go to New York and see some Broadway shows and that’s when it really clicked that musical theatre was what I wanted to pursue. We saw the original cast of Wicked and I thought to myself, “I’m not a great dancer, so maybe I should try singing.” While being able to master a song like “Defying Gravity” was a ways off, I started taking singing lessons in high school and realized I had a natural talent for it.
After all this, a career in the arts seemed like the only option. The arts made me feel alive and if something makes you feel like that, you should do it!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My art of choice is musical theatre. I love telling stories and the introduction of song into those stories makes them all the more rich and exciting. While the art of musical theatre itself has always brought me joy, joining such a cutthroat industry has presented many obstacles. I was so doubtful of my abilities at times and allowed the pressure to influence my auditions and my personal life negatively. Only in the past few years have I truly accepted that I am very talented and that I am worthy of such a profession.
It’s hard to not let all the rejections in this industry not sink my mental health and self esteem, but the older and more experienced I get, the more I realize that I am worthy. I suffered from deep depression and anxiety in high school and still deal with some symptoms today, but I am able to look at myself without the cloud of depression blocking my view.
I guess I basically do affirmations now- like acknowledging that I’m beautiful, talented, and pleasant to work with. Now that I am able to affirm my self worth, I am more prepared to deal with other problems in the industry.
One of the problems I have struggled with in this industry is racism. The theatre community desires to be inclusive, but often misses the mark with subtle or covert racism. Whitewashing abounds- especially at the Walt Disney Company’s parks and cruise ships. POC are often typecast or assumed to be more fit for the ensemble than the lead roles. Many casting directors are white and their casting reflects that. From coding POC as animals to seeing white as the default, the theatre world has numerous problems with regards to its community of color and that is one of the biggest challenges that I and many others are currently working to overcome.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I know it’s cliché, but a large part of that itinerary would be the beach for me. I like to go somewhere off the beaten track and have picnics with lots of snacks, listen to the waves, and people watch.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would love to dedicate this shoutout to my family, who have always supported my endeavors in the arts. I would also love to thank my voice teacher, Kelly Hinkle, for not only recommending me to Shoutout LA, but transforming my singing career for the better. And of course, my fiance, Thomas Kresge (who is also in the arts) is a great source of support and love, as well! Thank you!
Other: tiktok: @helenjp1313