Spotlight: Jack E. Fishburn '08


One would hardly expect an actor who recently performed a 25-minute monologue at the Loeb Experimental Theater to be shy, but Jack E. Fishburn ’08 seems possessed of a certain soft-voiced, secretive tendency. It’s only on our way out of Adams Dining Hall that the English and American Literature and Languages concentrator and Adams resident deigns to mention, ever so quietly, that he “sort of went to Eton.” Or that one of his motivations for attending a college outside his native Britain was the fact that he’s “quite pro-American, really, but I try to keep it quiet here because otherwise people would get big heads.”

Luckily for the actor, his own head seems to have retained its normal size despite the fact Harvard theater has become quite pro-Fishburn in recent years. After a marathon of appearances on Harvard stages that culminated with his participation in three Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club (HRDC) shows last semester, Fishburn has restricted himself to just one play this term, describing it as “methodone to the sort of heroin.” Yet given the intensity of the work Fishburn put into the production—where the previously mentioned monologue constituted the entirety of one of the four short plays presented in last weekend’s “First Shots”—it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to break his addiction anytime soon.

Though Fishburn didn’t start acting particularly early, he became heavily involved in theater during high school and chose to continue with acting when he came to Harvard.

I hadn’t really done any [drama] until I was 13. I think I was “second rose seller.” That’s about as far as it went. And then I auditioned and started acting and did it all through high school. When I got here I got a good first play which was “Equus.” The next semester I did the “Oresteia” on the mainstage, which was fun because it was Mike Donahue [’05] who’s now at the Yale School of Drama...Last semester I did “Knock” with Jess Burkle [’06].

Though Fishburn has had his share of roles on the Loeb Mainstage, one of the major components of his participation in Harvard drama has been his appearances in festivals featuring shorter plays, like HRDC’s annual 24-hour plays project and “First Shots,” which brought new student directors to the Loeb Ex.

I was one shot. Can one be a shot? It was one of [Alan Bennett’s] pieces from the mid-90s for British television...I played a park attendant with pedophilic tendencies. It was a really powerful piece.

Though Fishburn says he has an interest in “finding out whether I have an affinity for the training side,” he says he doesn’t regret having come to a college without a drama concentration.

I don’t think it’s the fact that there’s no drama concentration in terms of whether I would have done it or not. I think it’s the fact that there’s no awareness of theater at Harvard, which might be because nobody knows where the theater is...I hope the new theater will [remedy this]. I hope it’ll have enough of a turnover of plays to attract the eyes of students.

And despite his secret fondness for life across the Atlantic, Fishburn admits that there’s one part of American culture he’ll never be able to understand.

I don’t get the American fascination with the musical, which might be related to my inability to sing, dance, look good in a dress...Except West Side Story. I’ve always wanted to be a Jet.