• Coast Guard transplant makes the most of her time in Homer
By Christina Whiting
When Jessica Anne Williams’ Coast Guard husband told her they were moving to Alaska, at first she thought he was kidding.
“When Tristen called to tell me we were moving to Alaska, I was in Chicago, sitting outside on an 80-degree day, near the Trump Tower building and looking at the river,” she said. “At first I laughed because I thought he was joking, but when I realized he was serious, I imagined the trees and mountains and thought to myself how beautiful and refreshing it would be.”
The two moved to Alaska in the fall of 2011, when Tristen was transferred to work on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hickory.
Raised in a military family, Williams spent her youth moving from one place to another. Her natural artistic talents were nurtured at a young age, and became her lifeline, grounding her to herself and to her ever-changing surroundings. In Homer, Williams found direction for her creativity through the encouragement of the art community. She credits local support for her growing into the performer she is today.
“As a child, leaving friends time and again was devastating,” she explained. “But looking back now, I see it actually made me a very strong person. I’m able to make friends quickly, easily find my way around a community and I’ve learned to make the most of my time.”
Williams has fully immersed herself into Homer’s arts scene. In 2012, she performed in Homer Council on the Arts variety show, “Out of the Woodwork,” and has performed in “Reruns” for the past two years. Williams has portrayed characters like Sarah Palin, Edith Bunker, Lucy Arnaz, and Samantha from “Sex in the City” in the evening of comedy sketches.
Williams was assistant director for Homer Council on the Arts’ Theatreshakes program and performs regularly with Pier One Theatre. She recently acted in productions of “Next To Normal,” “Swimming in the Shallows” and the “Imaginary Invalid.”
“‘Next to Normal’ was the most incredible and intense theatrical experience of my life,” she said. “There was a beautifully gifted cast, incredible music, and Marc Oliver did an amazing directing job. My character, Diane, was so emotionally complex. She will be with me always.”
Living in Homer has provided Williams with numerous opportunities to both perform and expand her artistic horizons. She is currently assistant director for HCOAs’ Youth Musical Theater Program, which starts Jan. 7. She is also directing their annual fundraiser, “Stepping Out;” a variety show taking place Jan. 18.
Williams said her family nurtured her passion for the arts. “My parents both loved music and inspired my passion for acting and singing,” she said. “My mother loved musicals. I remember her playing Jesus Christ Superstar for me. I didn’t know musicals could sound like that.” Williams attended Columbia College in Chicago, and in 2009 received her Bachelor of Arts in Musical Theatre Performance. While at Columbia, she was part of a sketch with the television department and was accepted into the Comedy Studies program. She spent a semester at Second City Chicago.
After graduation, Williams found Chicago’s theatre community to be magical, inspiring and supportive. She worked with numerous theatre companies, as assistant director, stage manager, house manager and actor. She worked with Joe Janes, veteran of Second City, starred in several sketches for his 365 Sketches Festival, and was cast in the revival of The Wind In The Willows. She was also cast in an all-female version of Romeo and Juliet.
While singing at a karaoke bar, Williams met her future spouse, Tristen, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard. The two were married within a year and moved to Alaska in the fall of 2011, when Tristen was transferred to work on the USCGC Hickory. Williams made firends quickly in Homer, and easily found her niche in the community.
“Working in Dr. Adcox’s office, I met Sara Karnos who introduced me to Nancy Chastain, who introduced me to Homer Council on the Arts Theatreworks program,” she explained. “Through that program, I met Mary Langham, Kate Rich, Peter Sheppard and was eventually introduced to Sally Oberstein, who truly shaped my arts experience in Homer.”
Along with singing and acting, Williams is also an accomplished musician. She has been a flautist for 23 years and also plays bassoon, alto saxophone and tuba. Williams said she would like to start her own children’s theater company in the future.
“I’ve always wanted to work with kids,” she said. “They’re like sponges; they quickly grasp difficult material in a way that adults just can’t.” Ultimately, Williams said she would love to do voiceover work for cartoons. “I’ve always wanted to be a Disney princess or villain,” she said. “Cartoon work would be so much fun.”
Williams and her husband had their first child this past year. The couple may be transferred from Homer in the coming year, but that’s not stopping Williams from continuing to invest herself in the art community.
“Being in Homer has made me into a real artist,” she said. “Every day I wake up and think ‘this is another day I get to do something that will make me happy.’ No matter where we might go, I hope that the road someday leads us back to Homer.”
Meet your Neighbor shares the story of residents of Homer and the surrounding area. If you’d like to suggest someone for a story, contact Christina Whiting at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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