Category Archives: Selfies

Guest Star Selfie #2 – Jennifer Conley Darling

On Tuesday Feb 18th, Artistic Director/Actor/Producer Jennifer Conley Darling joined us as a GUEST STAR for Isaac Rathbone’s play CHUB. LRR playwright Brandon Marianne Lee sat down with her after — electronically-speaking — to learn more about her and make some selfie magic.

1. Inspired by Ike’s piece this week, where did you grow up and what was your favorite toy?

I grew up in a small town in Michigan. I was an only child, so I found myself creating imaginary worlds with my toys. I had a pretty large Barbie collection. Some of them I kept in pristine condition and others I would ‘punk rock’ out. I’d cut their hair like Pat Benatar or remove an arm to give a more realistic world to live in. Looking back, the world I created was pretty twisted – – probably what led me to theater 🙂

2. How did you fall in love with theatre? How has that love changed over the years? Basically, we want to hear a love story…

When I was five years old, my mother got cast as Vera in ‘Mame’ at the local community theater. She took me to a rehearsal and I fell in love immediately. I loved seeing her transform into someone else. I loved the freedom theater seemed to allow – – freedom to be someone else, freedom to be silly and sexy all at the same time. I went to every subsequent rehearsal and sat quietly in the house for the entire process and attended every single performance. Riveted throughout. My first love. This love will never change.

3. Google tells me you are a woman of many trades. You’re an accomplished actress, production manager, producer and the Producing Artistic Director of terraNOVA. And congrats on terraNOVA winning the Caffe Cino Fellowship Award as part of the NYIT Awards! How do you choose your projects and prioritize? What are your career goals and goals for terraNOVA? You know, an easy question.

Well thanks for Google stalking me! You know you’re doing something right if you are Google stalk worthy 😉

As far as how I choose the projects I get involved in, particularly with terraNOVA, I try to choose those shows that scare me. I believe theater should challenge us so I look for the plays that scare me through their form or their content or their unproducability. These are the things I look for.

Career goals – I’d say my career goals are very much aligned with the goals for terraNOVA. We’ve begun expanding terraNOVA in every way. Our largest objective is to create offices in cities beyond NYC. We just launched our Chicago office and held a reading earlier this week to introduce us to the industry and general audience, so off we go! I’d like to see us in Detroit, LA, San Fran, Boston and beyond.

4. terraNOVA has a playwright group called Groundbreakers. Could you tell us more about that? How do writers get involved? How is it similar and differs from what we do here at Lather Rinse Repeat?

Groundbreakers Playwrights Group is part of our overall new play development process called Groundworks. Groundbreakers focuses on early drafts of scripts. We invite six playwrights to be part of the group each season through an open submission process. We form a review committee made up of alumni, producers, dramaturgs, directors, and terraNOVA’s artistic staff. Once selected, we hold 18 sessions where each playwright brings in one script three separate times and hears it read aloud with professional actors. We hold a feedback session tailored by the playwright facilitated by Associate Artistic Director, Jessi D. Hill. We also ask our writers to get heavily involved in the casting process. We believe writers should hone in on the qualities each of their characters need to possess and after each reading, a casting discussion is held on what worked and what didn’t.

5. Pimp your wares. Where can we learn more about you, terraNOVA, future projects?

You can check out terraNOVA at www.terranovacollective.org. We’re opening a co-production with Baruch Performing Arts Center in March of a gorgeous show called HUMAN FRUIT BOWL.

Guest Star Selfie #1: Leta Tremblay

On Tuesday Feb 11th, Director/Producer Leta Tremblay joined us as a GUEST STAR for Tim Errickson’s play Warm Roses. LRR playwright Natalie Wilson sat down with her after — electronically-speaking — to learn more about her and share some of her fabulousness with y’all.

1) What is your role in this crazy world of theater, and what first inspired you to pursue that role?

I am a director and producer in the New York Indie Theater scene. I started down that path when I first moved to NYC in 2007 and founded my theater company, FullStop Collective, with a group of my peers from the Eugene O’Neill National Theater Institute. We began as a group of artists just trying to get our work produced and seen so we came together to support each other in that endeavor. I have a stage management background so I organically came into the role of Producing Director and have really found my way by doing. Producing the work, making mistakes and learning from them. Directing though is my true love. I love finding those magical moments with collaborators when something just fits. A line spoken with grace, a gesture that surprises, music that weaves into a lit stage scape. I love sitting in an empty theater before something is about to happen. The promise of those opportunities inspires me.

2) From your resume, you clearly love working on new plays.  What do you love about the new play development process?

I love the possibility that a new play holds and the excitement of actively working with a living playwright. I love to collaborate with other artists over this new living, breathing thing and helping it to grow into something that none of us ever expected when we started. For me, a new play comes to life when we put it on it’s feet. It might stumble in the beginning but hearing the words come out of actors mouths is the only way to see what you’ve really got. And who doesn’t love a world premier, am I right?

3) What is a favorite new play you’ve helped bring to life, and why?

Wow, that’s a tough one. There are so many! Most recently, Mariah MacCarthy’s MRS. MAYFIELD’S FIFTH GRADE CLASS OF ’93 20 YEAR REUNION (production June 2013) is a favorite and a totally unique process. We didn’t start with a script but rather an idea and a bunch of actors who we both wanted to work with. From inception to closing night the whole process was only about five months long and a whirlwind of improvisation, writing, rehearsing, and performing. It was so alive and invigorating! On the other side of the spectrum, I engaged in a nearly 7 year long collaboration with FullStop company member Megan Weaver on her play, CAUSE OF FAILURE, which we mounted at FringeNYC in 2012. Both projects are very near to my heart because if the characters that emerged and the tremendous artists that I had the pleasure to work with. Both are funny, heartbreaking, and epic in their own ways.

4) Let’s get serious for a moment. What is the hardest thing about getting new works developed currently in the US? Any brilliant ideas for how that could be fixed/changed?

Space and money. That’s really what it all boils down to. And that applies not only to actually producing new work but also for individual artists to be able to live. Playwrights can write, they can collaborate with directors, they can have informal readings with actors, and they can take classes and receive feedback from peers, but only if they have a space to work in and money to feed/cloth/house themselves. I am very much of the opinion that an artist doesn’t need to wait for opportunities to develop they work. Residencies and festivals are great but you can also self produce and create an environment where work can thrive as long as you are willing to raise the money to acquire the space to do so. Brilliant ideas? Affordable space for artists? More monetary support that’s not so difficult to access? A government that supports and appreciates artists and their importance in society. All big goals. I’m still working out the details.

5) Enough about you. How about us? How was your experience being a guest star with Lather Rinse Repeat? What did you enjoy? What do you think we could do better?

I loved spending an evening with the Lather Rinse Repeat crew! I could tell right away that you all are a close knit group and you were so welcoming that I felt at home right away. In our talk back session, after reading the great Tim Errickson’s delicious new play, I enjoyed the structured candor of the discussion and feedback. There was no ego which was a huge plus for me. Really, the only thing that could make it better would be if there were snacks. Although I did get some french fries out of the deal… 😉

 

#selfies 2.9 ACTOR EDITION Isaiah Tanenbaum. (with questions by Jeremy W.)

Isaiah Tanenbaum

On the heels of our psychotically successful night of shorts, Mistakes Were Made: An Evening of Rom-Com and Political Shorts, Jeremy W. gathered mega-talent Isaiah Tanenbaum for a virtual coffee-side firechat.  And thus Selfies 2.9 was borne.

#selfie 2.0  is an interview series where Lather, Rinse, Repeat playwrights interview the actor ensemble for their next night of short plays.  Playwrights have free reign over the questions. The interviewee must then post an actual selfie, because we told them to.

Jeremy W.:  Cyberstalking you has given me the impression you have a solidly developed nerd side.  We’re seeing a embrace of nerdness in our culture; do you think the theatre will sufficiently nerd out?

Isaiah T.: Ack! You’ve discovered my shameful secret! Yes, I’m a huge nerd. I was the kid reading Star Trek books on the school bus, the kid who went to science camp to shoot off rockets, the kid who raced home from his job at the Renaissance Faire to make his weekly online Star Trek roleplaying IRC group (I was a pirate cabin boy and a Betazoid science officer, respectively).

I’m still that nerdy kid, really, so I question whether anything can “sufficiently” nerd out. Nerds are inherent collectors and puzzle-solvers – facts, comics, board games – so there is always an opportunity for more stuff to collect and more puzzles to solve, and that includes theatrical experiences.

I do think, though, that a lot of writers and directors confuse the ephemera of nerd culture – spaceships or robots or comic book action or scientist characters or whatever – for true nerdiness, and it’s totally possible to overdose on that kind of “surface” nerdiness. True nerdy theatre uses these trappings to give the audience a puzzle, an idea, something to chew on. That’s harder than just setting Three Sisters on Mars, but it’s a question of craft, and the end result is simply a Good Play, which there is always, ALWAYS room for. Plenty of playwrights are up to the challenge – Mac Rogers and August Schulenburg come to mind, of course – but I’ve seen more than a few make the “spaceships=nerdy play” mistake. You can do the same with a love story or a crime drama or any other subgenre of narrative, really; just sprinkling a few familiar conventions on top of dull characters and calling it a day. It’s just particularly obvious with “nerdy” plays because the conventions are so in-your-face; when that’s all your play has, it all falls apart pretty quickly.

Jeremy W.:  I’m only just getting to know your acting work, but from what I’ve seen in the readings, from role to role, you innately bring to each character that universal need to be an engaged part of proceedings.  It’s very compelling.  Is that Isaiah coming out or is it a part of your craft?

Isaiah T: That’s really kind of you to say. If there’s anything of Isaiah in there, it’s my kind-of overwhelming personal need to be loved at all times by everyone around me. It’s probably pretty annoying in person but on stage I guess it reads as compelling, so hooray! YOU LOVE ME MY JOB IS DONE.

But seriously, I think it’s back to that nerdy puzzle thing I was talking about before. Why is my character doing X? Solving for X is part of the fun of performing a role. I’ve found that the answer is almost always something like “because another character just did or said Y, for which X is the only response my guy could have in that moment, because he wants Z to happen.” Then of course the director wants something else so I get to decide that, in fact, Q is really the thing I ought to do. But it’s always in response to the other person on the stage, and in the hopes of creating a change in them. This automatically engages me because I’m necessarily aware of what they are doing, and adjusting my responses accordingly. I even do that for monologues; the “other person” is either the audience or some future version of my character, which is to say, me.

This is all probably familiar to other actors who have read Declan Donnellan’s frankly amazing The Actor and the Target. That book was a godsend for me, because I never connected with the emotional sense-memory stuff that my college professor loved. I totally recognize it’s catnip for plenty of amazingly talented actors, but for me, it’s all about objectives and goals and tactics and DOING things. That’s where I live. So The Actor and the Target, combined with Actions: The Actor’s Thesaurus (which is basically a cross-referenced and organized-by-category list of highly specific, active verbs for actors to attach to lines), has formed the core of what I do on stage.

And when all that doesn’t work I just make funny faces.

Jeremy W.:  What is your dream hairstyle?

Isaiah T.: Anything. Literally anything. I like to say that my hair has exactly two styles: short, and jewfro. Mine just grows straight out and I look like The Wolfman, so basically it’s been variations of the Ceasar Cut since high school, and will remain as such forever. I am insanely jealous of people who actually have hair they can do anything with. I would kill for something like David Tenant’s infinitely styleable hair. It can do fun hedgehog! It can do long and mopey! It can get pushed back into a mohawk if for some reason he wants that! It can do whatever he wants! DAMN YOU TENANT.

Jeremy W.:  For those of us who live under rocks, what is it about your company Flux Theatre Ensemble that keeps you guys trucking along?

Isaiah T: Flux is just amazing. I don’t know what my life as a performer would look like if I hadn’t stumbled in on that group of people in 2006 off of a Craigslist ad (no joke, a Craigslist ad). We’ve been around for eight years now, which in Indie Theatre Years is two eternities and a forever. I think that longevity comes down to three highly-interconnected factors:

1) A tight focus on central operating principles we chose for ourselves that we call our Core Values (Joy, Compassion, Collaboration, Creativity, Excellence). We try to hold ourselves to these values in all things we touch, both in our artistic choices and in our producing choices. After everything we do, from full productions to casting calls to e-blasts, we ask ourselves “now, that thing we did, was it Compassionate? If not, how could it be more so?” And so on, down the list. It’s pretty easy to get lost in the day-to-day of making theatre, and even easier to make expedient choices, but having those five touchpoints to come back to keeps you focused and honest, and in the end a process that is more Joyful/Creative/etc is simply going to be more inspiring, rewarding, and enduring.

2) Our incredible community of fellow artists, collaborators, and audience members (many of whom, including more than a few Rinsers, are officially-designated Friends of Flux). Whether serving as box office volunteers, or running a fundraising committee, or offering props and costumes and expertise and shop-space, or just showing up again and again, the community that has grown up around us has helped us punch well above our weight for years. At this point, most of my personal friends are also Friends of Flux (or just lower-case-f friends of Flux), because that’s how close-knit this community is. When you develop that kind of long-term partnership, you don’t ever want to let anyone down.

3) We do a lot of stuff. Like, a lot. This semester, in fact (yes, I still think of my life in semesters), we’ve had or are having a major Flux event every month: The Annual Retreat, Have Another (our readings-in-a-bar series), a SpeakEasy (a kind of townhall for FoFs), next week’s Food:Soul (more staged readings, but with food), the upcoming Family Feud Benefit Party (please come!), and then another Have Another in December. And of course Flux Sundays nearly every week, which is like actor/playwright gym and just loads of fun. It’s kind of impossible not to keep going when there are so many things happening; there’s simply no chance to let the momentum falter.

And these are all related: our Core Values have attracted that community and kept it tight; the community, in turn, helps us run all these events; the events reward the community by giving them chances to perform and enjoy theatre; when we hew to our values they and we are doubly-rewarded, and we’re all moved to create more stuff to share. It’s like a triple-positive feedback loop and it’s kind of stupidly inspiring to be at the center of it.

Jeremy W.:  You seem terribly at home in the theatre in almost every way.  Are you as comfortable doing this work as you appear to be?

Isaiah T.: You are like the sweetest interviewer ever.

On the one hand, yes, I’ve always liked it when people listen to me, and it turns out there’s a whole career where actual adults pay real, actual money to buy a ticket where they just sit and listen to me for an hour or two at a time. That’s crazy!

On the other, though, I’m still a little terrified whenever I get up to do it. What if my fly is undone? What if I flub a line? What if I fuck up my blocking? What if I’m thinking about all that so I’m too in my head and they can see that OH GOD THE EYES THEY SEE EVERYTHING THEY CAN SEE MY SOUL HEEEEEELP.

Living somewhere between that pure joy of attention, and the cold, shivering terror of same, is why I keep coming back even when the rational part of my brain says “you know what, maybe you should get a real job or something.” It’s like the best high ever.

To catch Isaiah and all the #LRRit gang in action you’re too late.  Don’t miss the next one.  Seriously.

#selfies 2.8 ACTOR EDITION Jacob H. (with questions by Tim E.)

Tim E. got  chance to connect with actor Jacob Horstmeier recently,  and all of Jacob’s deepest secrets are revealed in this week’s episode of SELFIES 2.0.

#selfie 2.0  is an interview series where Lather, Rinse, Repeat playwrights interview the actor ensemble for their next night of short plays.  Playwrights have free reign over the questions. The interviewee must then post an actual selfie, because we told them to.

Tim E: Where were you born and raised? What’d you like to do as a kid?

Jacob H: I was born in Madison, WI and raised in Random Lake, WI, a town of about 1500 people.  I have three siblings, two older brothers and one younger sister, and while growing up our favorite pastime was breaking any and all rules our parents left us with for the day.

Tim E: Nice. And how’d that lead into you get into theater and acting?

Jacob H: I was introduced to acting by our local community theatre’s summer production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I was a part of the children’s chorus and after finishing that experience I thought maybe this was how I wanted to spend the rest of my life.

Tim E: As you’re a native to Madison, I need to know: Favorite picnic salad: Potato, Macaroni, or other?

Jacob H: At the moment, my gut’s telling me potato salad.

Tim E: How did you get connected to LRR? Thru a particular playwright, or thru actor friends?

Jacob H: I got connected to LRR through the lovely Brandon Marianne Lee.  She wrote a short adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus for the school at Primary Stages’ Detention Series, and I was lucky enough to be a part of her very funny script.

Tim E: And finally, If you could invite any 5 people (living or dead) to a party, who would you invite?

Jacob H: My dinner party: Abraham Lincoln, Bill “The Butcher” Cutting, Christy Brown, Nathaniel Poe and Daniel Day-Lewis

To catch Jacob and all the #LRRit gang in action be sure to keep November 2nd free and clear and Buy tickets for Mistakes Were Made: An Evening of Rom-Com and Political Shorts

#selfie 2.7 ACTOR EDITION Heather LR. (with questions by Natalie W.)

Heather Lee Rogers comes to us by way of Flux Theatre Ensemble (where Lauren F. first met her and brought her in!). She was excellent in Jen’s play Iona Means Island, and we’re glad to have her back. You can find out more at http://www.heatherogers.com/.

#selfie 2.0  is an interview series where Lather, Rinse, Repeat playwrights interview the actor ensemble for their next night of short plays.  Playwrights have free reign over the questions. The interviewee must then post an actual selfie, because we told them to.

NATALIE W. What is your earliest memory of a compelling moment of theater, and how did it influence your path to becoming an actress?

HEATHER LR.  I grew up in rural Massachusetts, so I didn’t see a whole lot of theater when I was growing up.  But we had class plays in school.  The first play I was ever in (that had actual blocking, and wasn’t just a line of little kids picking noses adorably) was a play version of The Nutcracker.  I was just a cousin in the first scene and had helped paint the big paper birch trees that represented the forest of the Sugarplum Fairy.  Anyway, after the play was done and people applauded I had my first RUSH.  It felt like there was this whole world of pretend we had created together and I had just felt it palpably slip away.  Total magic. Playing pretend but with a whole cafeteria full of people. That’s when I decided this was what I wanted to do.

NATALIE W.  On your website, you wrote that you want to “speak text and ideas that make rooms gasp”. What is your favorite gasp so far that you’ve provoked?

HEATHER LR.   It’s funny.  I’ve done a lot of theater with beautiful, strong language (and seek that out always), but the real live gasps I’ve experienced have been more about moments of human connection, not so much about the lines.  I think my favorite reaction ever was when I was playing Emilia in Othello for a bunch of 9th graders.  They were a terrible, rowdy audience; it was hell.  But they really connected with our Desdemona.  There is the scene where Othello is calling her a “whore”, and in our production he was just about to smack her, when Emilia interrupts by entering.  So I entered.  There was a real gasp.  And then some kid, not sure if it was a boy or girl, in a deep-dead-serious voice said “GET HIM.”  AND NO ONE LAUGHED.  It taught me that Emilia’s really the only person in that play that CAN save Desdemona, she’s the only one with enough brains and guts, and the tragedy is that in the last scene she just gets there a little too late.  I learned so much about my character from that kid!

NATALIE W.    You also mention you want to play villains and kings. What is your dream not-usually-performed-by-a-woman role and why?

HEATHER LR.   Oh man.  I’m terrible at answering “dream role” questions!!  I want to play Richard III, Claudius in Hamlet, Henry V (in Henry V)… huh. Why is it easier to imagine with classical roles?  Is it the distance or, the precedent of gross-gender casting throughout history?  But when I’ve seen theater that casts adults as kids or women as men or mixes up race roles it can be really profound.  You listen differently to what these characters say and what they’re about when you are forced to get rid of the short-cut conclusions you can make when actors are cast WITHIN type. Theater is kind of about the universality of the human condition, and acting by definition is taking on a character OUTSIDE of yourself… I’m rambling.

NATALIE W. What keeps you sane in this crazy business? (or are you not sane?)

HEATHER LR.  I have two keys to staying sane:  The first is to see as much theater as I can so that I stay inspired and excited about making theater. Then all the masochistic horribleness of this business keeps making sense somehow. The second is to surround myself with supportive, theater-making friends who hustle hard and work all the time. We inspire each other and we believe in each other which is everything.

NATALIE W.  Let’s take a moment to brag about you. Why do you think LRR asked you to be part of our awesome evening of short plays? What sets you apart as an actress?

HEATHER LR.     I think Lauren asked me to be part of this because she’s seen me play around at Flux Sundays (with Flux Theatre Ensemble) where the name of the game is making big, strong, choices and running with them. I’m good at working that way.  ALSO I was so enamored with her play Somewhere Safer, which she partly developed at Flux Sundays, that I approached stalker status… perhaps throwing me a casting bone was her alternative to getting a restraining order.  Yeah, seriously, I do think that’s why I’m here:  When I see work I like and connect with I’m very forward about introducing myself and saying point blank “I would love to work with you.”  There’s this weird conceit among actors that we need to wait around to be invited to the party, nonchalantly hope to be noticed, and be all cool and aloof about it. It’s a strategy I don’t have patience for or understand. Psyched to work with all of you!

To catch Heather, Natalie and all the #LRRit gang in action be sure to keep November 2nd free and clear and Buy tickets for Mistakes Were Made: An Evening of Rom-Com and Political Shorts