Supporting creative work by women
If you were lucky enough to catch Lauren Roth‘s scene-stealing performance in Billie Carver and the Children in Mind, you know what a riot she is. Later this week, she portrays multiple characters in the latest play by award-winning playwright Timothy Nolan. What’s In A Name explores how far you can fun away from your past, and the production introduces one of New York’s newest theatre venues, the Chain Theatre in Long Island City.
Lauren spoke to Works By Women about What’s In A Name, how Billie Carver and the Children in Mind came together and who inspires her.
WORKS BY WOMEN: What can audiences expect from What’s In A Name?
LAUREN ROTH: Audience should expect a really jarring, interesting, and thought provoking experience with What’s in a Name. The play is inspired by a 1994 article in the New York Times about a woman named Katherine Ann Power who turned herself in to the FBI for a bank robbery in Boston in 1971 after living under an assumed identity for over 20 years. The article talked about how she would have dreams nearly every night in which she would slip up and reveal her true identity. In our play, What’s in a Name, we follow the central character as she grapples with the meaning of “identity”, guilt, fear, and what happens when you don’t get a good night’s sleep for nearly 20 years!
WBW: What drew you to the script?
LR: I loved the idea of getting to explore playing several different characters. The play starts off in 2003, but much of it takes place in flashbacks to moments in the central character’s story and I play several different people that appear during these glimpses into the past . At last count, I portray 8 different characters! I liked the challenge of finding separate qualities and quirks to delineate the differences between each character and was happy for the opportunity to work on such a non-linear piece.
WBW: The play deals with a woman reconciling her past. How difficult would that be today given all the technology and the way life is captured 24/7?
LR: I would say that in this day in age it is difficult to keep what you just ate for lunch under wraps, let alone any sort of juicy past indiscretions! Folks splatter their whole lives onto social media outlets and if they aren’t so inclined to do so, anyone else has the power to. It’s damn hard to keep anything sacred these days.
WBW: You were nominated for a New York Innovative Theater Award for Billy Carver and the Children in Mind. What a crazy role. What was that experience like?
LR: I was nominated for playing P.M.S. (the character “Priscilla Margot Saunders”, that is) and it was a HOOT being able to bring that kooky, boozy lady from the page to the stage. I auditioned for and was cast in a COMPLETELY different play that the producers were ultimately not able to secure the rights to, so our director locked himself in his apartment for a few days to write a new play for the actors he had cast and that’s how Billy Carver and the Children in Mind was born. I got to work with some really smart and dynamic folks and together we shaped something pretty great out of thin air. It was a totally wonderful experience and the nomination was just the cherry on a deliciously creative sundae. Also, Greg Cicchino (director of What’s in a Name) happened to see that play, we met and kept up since, and that’s how I came to know Variations Theater Group and the exciting work they are doing over at the Chain Theatre in LIC!
WBW: What’s next for you?
LR: I am a regular performer/writer/show runner at OUR BAR, an ensemble that uses a theme each month to build ten scenes that could legitimately happen in that bar, that night. With no “fourth wall,” OUR BAR is often described as a month’s worth of bar antics artfully shoved into one hour, and like any great night out on the town, each show is unique. The material you see at each OUR BAR lives and dies before your eyes. We put on a brand new show on the first Wednesday of every month at Failte Irish Whiskey Bar in Murray Hill and our next show will be on May 1 at 7pm and 9pm (ourbarnyc.com). This month, I am also finishing up an extended run of a show I co-created with some old school chums based on Craig’s List’s popular “Missed Connections” section called Missed Connections: An Exploration into the On-Line Postings of Desperate Romantics at the Laurie Beechman Theater where we have two more performances on April 15 at 10pm and April 20 at 4pm (www.missedconnectionsshow.com).
WBW: What are the challenges facing women in American theater?
LR: I think there are so many talented and well educated woman who are eager to work in this industry and there are simply not enough opportunities afforded to them. Women artists are generally excluded from positions of power and visibility in the American theater industry. More women have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in recent years but very few women ever win the Tony Award for playwriting or directing. As in most cases, even on the creative front, the proverbial glass ceiling is still firmly in place.
WBW: What gives you hope for women in American theater?
LR: Artists like playwrights Annie Baker, Lynn Nottage, and director Diane Paulus are pretty darn daring, and they seem to be pushing the lines in an uncomfortable way (see the recent dust up surrounding Baker’s The Flick at Playwrights Horizons.) I am thinking that them along with some of their female contemporaries might just be setting new boundaries for women in this industry with their uncompromising and strong statements within their work. Also, I am seeing more and more plays centered around female characters dealing with extraordinary situations and it is really exciting to see some of the actresses I have long admired in supporting roles given the chance to take center stage and really getting to use their chops. For instance, this season’s The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw and The Other Place with Laurie Metcalf allowed these actresses to carry the weight of the play squarely on their backs and give tour de force performances while doing so. Even our play, What’s in a Name, centers around a fascinating female character and has a “lady heavy” cast breakdown (3F, 1M). It seems that on all levels of theater, more and more women are making it known in a big way that they have innovation to lend both on and off stage.
You can catch What’s In A Name at the Chain Theatre April 12 – 27, 2013. For more information, visit .http://www.variationstheatregroup.com/.