This month, we caught up with stage and screen actress, director, wife, and mother, Jan Guarino. If you haven’t been to the theater in Richmond lately (let’s say, in the past forty years) then you might recognize Jan from her long-running stint as a spokesperson for Haynes Furniture. Can you believe those commercials first aired in 1984?
Jan, who lives in Richmond with her husband of twenty-five years, playwright Bo Wilson, says even with her active career in the arts, she has always tried to stay fully engaged on the home front. “The life of a freelancer is a life of saying ‘Yes!’ to whatever opportunity comes along,” says Jan. “Sometimes I’ll go days without the phone ringing, and my family is probably praying I’ll get a gig somewhere. Other times, I’m juggling three or four jobs at once and our dogs don’t remember me!”
Last month, Jan stepped into the role of Truvy in Virginia Rep’s production of Steel Magnolias at Hanover Tavern. Prior to that, she graced the Richmond stage in back-to-back productions at Children’s Theatre of Virginia, first in Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile (which she also choreographed) and then in Busytown, which she directed and choreographed. Grownups might also remember her as Annette in God of Carnage, which garnered a nod for Best Ensemble at the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle Awards.
What’s next for Jan? More directing with a popular musical at St. Catherine’s next month, a number of shows through Virginia Rep’s touring company, and ’Twas the Night Before Christmas, the holiday production at the Children’s Theatre of Virginia stage at Willow Lawn. The actress is also optimistic about scoring a role in her husband Bo’s new play, which will premier next June.
With so many theater credits on her resumé, we wanted to know how her storied career affected her parenting style through the years. Although Jan said her kids, Nora, 21 and Zachary, 19, would have a lot more to say on the topic, she did offer this: “Acting in any medium requires that you be fully present, fully honest, fully aware, and engaged and listening – and I think these are qualities that are good in any parent.”
Keep reading to learn more about one of Richmond’s most admired stars of stage and screen, the ever perky and prolific Jan Guarino.
Mountains or beach?
Beach. I’d love to live on the water someday.
Dogs or cats?
I love all animals, but if I have to choose, I’ll choose dogs every time – unless one of the choices is horses!
What book is on your nightstand right now?
Lonesome Dove – my husband swears I’ll like it!
If you were stranded on a desert island, what food would you want to grow on trees?
Can I wish for a potato-chip tree?
Same island – what’s the one tech gadget you would want with you?
My computer, so I can play Facebook games.
Favorite Richmond restaurant for the whole family?
When it’s just you and your honey?
What is your favorite way to spend a rainy Sunday?
Eating popcorn and watching movies with Bo.
Favorite family outing?
Except for beach vacations, our family has grown in various directions. My daughter Nora is a very fine equestrian, so she and I are frequently at horsey-type events, but Bo’s allergic to horses (no small irony!), so he isn’t always able to join us. Meanwhile, our son Zach is probably on his skateboard making it defy physics and posting proof of the latest trick to YouTube.
What is your energy source?
I was blessed with an abundance of energy to begin with, and the great fortune of actually making a living doing work I love has kept the batteries fully charged!
Finish this sentence. “My family loves it when I…
…make spaghetti a la Jan!”