Rapping Dallas actor hides a soft spot for celeb gossip and vegan sweets
Undermain Theatre is presenting the second part in Matthew Paul Olmos' trilogy So Go the Ghosts of Mexico, and Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso has the distinction of being the only actor to appear in both the plays.
Cleghorn Jasso is no stranger to new work or exploring difficult subject matter, having tackled DACA, drugs, violence, sex, and physical and mental disabilities — to name a few — onstage. In the world premiere of So Go the Ghosts of Mexico, Part Two, which opens at Undermain Theatre on September 9 and runs through October 1, she is part of an all-female cast that uses the U.S./Mexico drug wars to explore the extreme machismo of narco culture.
In advance of the play's opening night, Cleghorn Jasso took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun, and sometimes ridiculous questions.
Name: Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso
Role in So Go the Ghosts of Mexico, Part Two: Azul
Previous work in the DFW area: I have worked with Undermain Theatre, WaterTower Theatre, Amphibian Stage Productions, Danielle Georgiou Dance Group, Shakespeare Dallas, Dallas Theater Center, Cara Mía Theatre Co., Dead White Zombies, Theatre Three, Anita Martinez Ballet Folklorico, Artes de la Rosa, Hip Pocket Theatre, and Artisan Center Theater.
Hometown: I was born in Harlingen, TX; claim Southside Fort Worth as my hometown; and grew up in Saginaw (we lovingly called it Sagnasty back in the day).
Where you currently reside: My husband, the very talented and handsome Ivan Jasso, and our animal babies live in Mesquite.
First theater role: The first role I played was a zebra for Odyssey of the Mind, which was like University Interscholastic League competition for elementary school.
First stage show you ever saw: Debbie Allen’s Pepito’s Story at Bass Performance Hall is my first vivid memory. The company my father worked for built the hall and we were invited. I was so proud of my father and still think those angels at the entrance are the most glorious pieces of structure Fort Worth has to offer.
Moment you decided to pursue a career in theater: After high school, I was a bit lost and my life journey took me to Utah to study theater. I came home with my new fiancé and he and I eloped about 6 months after I returned home.
I knew I was serious about pursuing theater professionally when it became apparent that my first husband, bless his heart, didn’t approve nor support my dream and that my desire to act professionally was a bigger priority than my marriage at the time.
Most challenging role you’ve played: I played Ceci in Octavio Solis’ Lydia, and I loved her with all of my heart. Playing Ceci was emotionally and physically taxing, but also the greatest gift I have ever received as an actor.
My character suffered brain damage from a car accident, so I trained with the brilliant Steph Garrett on the specific physicality needed to play Ceci. Occasionally I still have nightmares and wake up with "Ceci hands" — it used to be scary, but now I am grateful that she will forever be in my body.
Special skills: My newfound love is rapping; you’ll have to come see Ghosts to see if I’m any good.
Something you’re REALLY bad at: I am the absolute WORST at making decisions. I am 33 years old and am still traumatized by the first time I had to buy groceries for myself and spent half an hour deciding on what milk to get.
Current pop culture obsession: I love reading celebrity news and so does my dad, which is funny to talk to him about the latest Kardashian updates or Brad Pitt and Angelina.
Last book you read: I started Veronica Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho but never finished it — I should finish reading that book. I read a lot of scripts.
Favorite movie(s): Growing up I loved The Man in the Moon with a young Reese Witherspoon. I remember playing it a birthday party once and everyone being really bored, except me. Moulin Rouge really made me feel all the feels too; I want to be Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge when I grow up.
Favorite musician(s): I remember going on road trips to the Valley to see our family and listening to Van Morrison and Elton John over and over and I loved it.
Favorite song: "Into the Mystic" by Van Morrison. I loved the movie Dream a Little Dream, and this song definitely reminds me of those trips with my family.
Dream role: In high school, I competed in a Shakespeare monologue contest and I remember thinking how tragically beautiful Cleopatra was and that one day I wanted to be her.
Favorite play(s):References to Salvador Dalí Make Me Hot by José Rivera was a dream play to work on, and such a passionately poetic script. The play also was so significant for me because I experienced it with the dearest people in my life at the time and it left such a huge impact. One day I will tattoo “her dreams are full of broken moonlight” on my body so I can always remember Gabriela’s words.
Favorite musical(s): My little brother and I saw Wicked on Broadway when I traveled to New York for the first time. It was during a really challenging time of my life but it was such a momentous trip.
Favorite actors/actresses: I’m obsessed with local actors because the talent in DFW is so ridiculously amazing. Most people know about my huge talent crush on Blake Hackler, but I am also in love with Jenny Ledel’s work. My husband is way legit and the women in So Go the Shosts of México, Part Two are phenomenal.
Favorite food: Anything vegan. Bonus points for a good vegan brownie or sweet treat.
Must-see TV show(s):The Handmaid’s Tale was painfully stunning, and Love was a show I really dug because I love loving.
Something most people don’t know about you: I suffer from an anxiety disorder and sometimes think I’m going to die onstage. Haven’t yet.
Place in the world you’d most like to visit: I want to live in a Spanish-speaking country one day so I can finally learn Spanish, so Spain or Costa Rica. But I would also love to meet the Pope and see Vatican City since I grew up Catholic.
Pre-show warm-up: My pre-show warm-ups include stretching, vocal warm-ups, deep breathing, and going over my lines a thousand times so I don’t have a panic attack.
Favorite part about your current role: The best part about playing Azul is that he is such a challenge. The idea of finding something redeeming or even just human in a character that is so flawed has been such an edifying experience.
Most challenging part about your current project: The most challenging part is that it is a world premiere. I have so much respect for Matthew Paul Olmos and want to make him and Azul proud.
There is some pressure because this is the first time giving these characters life in a fully realized production; I want this experience to be memorable and to speak to the audience so they can fully understand how necessary and timely this narrative is.
Most embarrassing onstage mishap: I have bared my boobs onstage, had all sorts of sex scenes, and have attempted to dance/sing onstage, so most of my career I deal with embarrassing moments.
Career you’d have if you weren’t in theater: If I wasn’t acting anymore then I would want to teach full-time or be a stay-at-home mom, in like 10 years when I am mature enough to have a child.
Favorite post-show spot: My favorite post-show spot is my couch eating junk food and watching TV.
Favorite thing about Dallas-Fort Worth: I love DFW so much because of the people. When I go see shows I am still starstruck, because I believe some of the finest actors are among us and some of the greatest humans ever.
Most memorable theater moment: I cry a lot when I’m in shows, see shows, think about shows, because I am so overwhelmed by how remarkably special it is.
Recently, as another actress was working on a song in rehearsal, I was moved to tears because — again — I cry happy tears about everything theater, but also because in that simple moment I felt such a great comfort that what we do is so effing precious and that I am beyond blessed to live magic every day.