Supporting creative work by women
Lynn Sher will next be seen in Alan Bowne’s play, Beirut, at Under St. Mark’s, a theater in the same East Village neighborhood where the play is set. Beirut was written in the 1980s when the AIDS epidemic began in the United States and follows two lovers separated by a quarantine.
Lynn, who has also been featured on NYC 22 on CBS, spoke to Works by Women about how she first became involved in theatre, how this production of Beirut came to be and how she prepared for the scorching role, Blue.
WORKS BY WOMEN: How did you first become involved in theatre?
LYNN SHER: My involvement in theatre happened in spurts throughout different intervals in my life, as up until a couple years ago I was focused on a variety of different artistic pursuits. The first initiative I took on my own to be involved in theater was a community theater production of The Music Man that I did when I was 14. I remember just loving the experience. The camaraderie of being one person in a cast of people, the process of putting everything together piece by piece, and the excitement of presenting our work to an audience really made me fall in love with the whole thing.
WBW: What drew you to the play Beirut?
LYNN: Beirut was presented to me by Terry Schreiber, who I was studying with at the time. He had suggested I work on it with Esteban (Benito, TORCH) in class. Due to technical difficulties I ended up working on something else with another actor, but I was so intrigued with the title of the piece and the synopsis that Terry had given me that I went out, bought it and read it anyway. It blew my mind how invested I got in Torch and Blue. How affected I became by the story. When I decided I wanted to produce something it just seemed like the obvious choice. I knew I was a spot-on Blue and Esteban would be a spot on Torch. It didn’t demand an astronomical budget for set, costumes, etc., but the main reason was that I was in love with the story.
WBW: This play was written 25 years ago. What makes it still relevant today?
LYNN: At its heart Beirut is about love, and how humans cannot live without it, no matter what. And that love sees no color, no religion, no disease status. The opposite of love is fear, and fear is responsible for all human suffering. I mean you can’t more timeless than that or more relevant to our world today. I think it is also incredibly relevant in helping younger generations to understand what AIDS was, what it still IS in other countries. I was very young in the mid-80’s when BEIRUT was written, and I remember hearing about AIDS and eventually learning about it. But I did not know that people were dying of this plague and nobody was doing anything about it. I wasn’t aware of the fight that was made to get the government, scientists and drug companies to take action. The research I did really blew my mind.
WBW: How did you work on the character Blue? What inspiration did you seek out?
LYNN: I watched Marissa Tomei in ‘My Cousin Vinnie’ and Laura San Giacomo’s work in ‘Pretty Woman’. They both originated the role of Blue in the original off-off-Broadway and Off-Broadway productions and are both such incredible actresses and both spot-on Blues. I did a lot of digging both in the text and in myself and wrote out a detailed biography for her. That’s always a huge part of bringing a character to life. It was tricky because in a lot of ways I am very much like Blue, but I had to be very clear about what was different between us. The biggest thing I found was that our energy centers were incredibly different. That was the key. Dancing and singing to a select playlist of songs was also a huge source of inspiration.
WBW: What’s next for you?
LYNN: I really like producing, and I have an Idea of what my next endeavor might be, but I would also like to focus on other elements of my career, namely TV and FILM. I’ve been eating, sleeping and dreaming Beirut since February and have really neglected all other areas of my creative life. To go against what I just said though, I would also love to opportunity to bring Beirut to another part of the country or another part of the world. I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of Blue and Torch and would love to explore their world more, drop in deeper. I would also LOVE to focus on studying Shakespeare. That is definitely high up on my list.
WBW: What are the challenges women in American theatre face?
LYNN: Honestly I can’t say. If we were going to talk about film I’d have much more to say. But there are so many awesome roles for woman of all ages in theater. And sure there’s a lot of competition, but I firmly believe that we get to play the parts we’re meant to play when we’re meant to play them. Of course you can always manipulate fate and produce and cast yourself!
WBW: What gives you hope for women in American theatre?
LYNN: American theater is oozing with interesting, strong, zany, and beautifully tragic women for us to play. It’s a veritable playground!
Dream Out Loud Productions will present Beirut September 12 – 29, 2012 at Under St. Marks. Learn more now.