Female Lead Learns to Act ‘Tough’

By Jesse Darland ‘06

In Surviving Guthrie, Jessie Pennington ’09 plays Allison Wells, known to her friends as “Ally.” Pennington, a theatre major from Lexington, has been involved with theatre at Georgetown from her very first semester, and Surviving Guthrie is just the latest production she’s been part of.

Even though her character Ally is an English major and the editor of the school newspaper, she has never once taken a writing class with her father. They haven’t gotten along for years; her parents are divorced and she blames her father. “The less she has to talk to him, the better,” Pennington explains. During the course of the film, Ally’s attitude (and just about everything else) changes.

“My character is different from me in that she’s very tough, very hard,” Pennington says. “Ed [Smith] kept telling me, ‘You can’t be sweet.’ It was a challenge.” Pennington had to reach the heart of her character. “I kind of had to find the opposite of myself,” she says, “and make her likable even though she’s tough.”

Since Pennington has been a stage actress most of her career, making the transition to film was a challenge. “You have to know your part really well,” she says. “I read the script a lot, talked to Ed and Jesse Harris. You have to create a back story, know relationships, and play accurately to how Jesse wrote it.”

The prolific Pennington also had to balance Guthrie with her final exams and a part in It’s a Grand Night for Singing at the University of Kentucky, all at the same time. “That was a stressful week because I had a lot of finals and the movie and I was starting a show that week,” she laughs. “It was a tough time. I didn’t get much sleep.”

Though sometimes filming Guthrie didn’t turn out exactly as planned, Pennington thoroughly enjoyed it. “It’s really good experience because I would like to do film in my career,” she says. “It’s nice because it’s a different aspect of performance. It’s so different from stage acting, which is what I’m used to. It’s good to get experience and work with people who are professionals, and to work with a really talented cast and crew.”



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