Age & Hometown: “Old enough that Stephen Schwartz had to add jokes about Catherine’s age into the script”; Boca Raton, FL
Current Role: The “commonplace, come-what-may, average, ordinary, wonderful” Catherine, the title prince’s muse in the Tony-winning revival of Pippin.
Walking (Barefoot) on Sunshine: The daughter of “intense and wonderful” Shakespearean actors Dennis Jones and Mona Feit, Rachel Bay Jones grew up with a “deep, deep respect and love” for theater. “It just felt like a natural gravitation,” she says. “My parents didn’t push me, but being an actor was encouraged.” When Jones wasn’t performing in local productions, she spent her time “running around barefoot, playing with baby snakes and toads” in sunny Boca Raton. “West Boca Raton,” she stresses, which was just being developed—and was very different from the resort town's posh oceanfront area. “Our backyard was literally a swamp,” she says with a laugh. “The first year we moved there, the alligators ate everyone’s dogs. Luckily for my heart, my mom was allergic to pets!”
No Llores Por Mi Argentina: Jones bypassed college to make her Broadway debut in Meet Me in Saint Louis—then took a 20-year hiatus from the Great White Way. “Auditioning isn’t my favorite thing,” she admits. “There’s a part of me that would rather be reading a book somewhere.” But once a role is hers, Jones has a knack for pushing her own boundaries. While headlining Evita in Miami, she convinced the director to let her sing the entire show in Spanish—even though she didn’t know the language. “I was beyond terrified,” Jones recalls. “My heart rate is up just talking about it!” The actress returned to Broadway in the 2009 production of Hair, and her penchant for onstage adventure meshed perfectly with Diane Paulus’ inventive directing style. “Diane creates an environment that allows so much freedom as an actor,” she says. “It was beautiful to be a part of that company.”
Send in the Clowns: When Paulus set out to direct Pippin, she immediately thought of Jones for the role of Pippin's lover. “I’ll do anything for Diane, but it was crazy,” the actress says. “I’m older than most women who play Catherine! But then I auditioned and it did seem like a good fit.” In the new circus-themed revival, Jones suggested that Catherine, “the one who keeps screwing everything up,” could be a clown—even though, in reality, clowns scare her. “I’ve had a battle with fear my whole life,” she says. “I think the only thing to do is just go up and face it.” Now, Jones juggles eight shows a week as the clowning Catherine while raising her 10-year-old daughter Miranda—who wants to be an actress, just like her mom. “She’s completely enamored with the theater, exactly like I was as a child,” she says, adding with a laugh, “It terrifies me!”