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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

Entries in Lisa Lewis (2)

Sunday
Nov062011

Phoebe Strole

Phoebe Strole is a rising performer who has appeared on Broadway in the original cast of "Spring Awakening." Her other theatrical credits include "The Metal Children" (Vineyard Theatre), "Mourning Becomes Electra" (The New Group), "Parade" (Mark Taper Forum), "A Different Moon" (Penguin Rep) and "Girls I've Like Liked" (Ars Nova, Comedy Central Stage in LA). On film and television Phoebe has been seen in "Hamlet 2," “30 Rock,” and “Rescue Me.”

Next, Phoebe will be starring in an industry-only reading of Lisa Lewis' "Schooled" which will also feature Tony Award Winner Michael Cerveris, James Kautz (founder of The Amoralists Theatre Company), and Broadway's Mara Davi.

"Schooled" will be presented on November 15 at 8pm at The New Ohio Theatre in NYC. Industry reservations can be made by e-mailing SchooledThePlay@gmail.com.

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? This is such a complicated question. There are so many people and inspiring events that helped me to get where I am, but the most influential person has been my father. He doesn't come from a particularly artsy background, but once he knew this is what I wanted to do with my life, he's always been my number one fan. He still believes in me when I'm feeling discouraged or when jobs are scarce. It's also not just about becoming a performer, it's about being consistently reinspired to pursue a career in the arts. Sometimes I need to step away, and feeling I'm supported in that is so helpful as well.

2. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to?I want to do a play with Amy Sedaris. Maybe with just the two of us. We could get up to mayhem and shenanigans. I think she is a genius.

3. What attracted you to Lisa Lewis' "Schooled" and what do you hope audiences come away with after seeing it? What do you look forward to about working with this cast? First of all, I think Lisa is a fiercely smart young woman and writer. In Schooled, she has illustrated some of the complicated sexual politics that take place behind the scenes in the entertainment business (or any business). I think any woman trying to "make it" in her chosen field of work can relate to feeling a certain pressure to conform to an existing order of gender roles and expectations. The same goes for men, actually. The questions we're left with are
personal in nature and deliberately unanswered - who is hurt worse than whom, and was the personal loss worth the professional gain?

4. What excites you about pariticpating in a reading by a rising playwright? What excites me about working with rising playwrights is the opportunity to be part of the development of a new wave of theater. I also consider Lisa to be a friend and a peer, someone who challenges me to think more deeply and encourages my opinions, sometimes over a cocktail or three. I think this is what her work does for her
audiences as well. Minus the cocktails.

5. What is your favorite part of ther rehearsal/preview period in a show? Where is your favorite place to rehearse/practice on your own? Honestly, I love everything about the rehearsal process. From the first day of awkward introductions to opening night when you've become a funny family, I love it all. Sometimes I'm sad to leave a really good day. I even love tech! Even if I leave frustrated or feeling that I didn't live up to my expectations, I want to always push myself to be better. I feel lucky to be there and I miss it when I'm not.

My favorite place to rehearse is definitely NOT my own apartment, even though I have to. It's too distracting. Oh look, snacks, oh look, the internet, oh look, my couch. Sometimes, for important auditions or projects that are making me shake in my boots, I'll rent out a little quiet studio in midtown from a studio rental place and spend a couple of hours alone with the material.

6. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? Oh, dear. So much. And not all of it good. I've learned that I have a nasty perfectionistic streak - the little mean voice in my head that says if I can't be THE BEST at something, I shouldn't even try. It's why I have half-made art projects and half-knitted scarves and half-read books around my home. I have to just suck it up and not be afraid to fail big time, to dive in even when I don't understand something, to look really stupid or crazy. To give the finger to non-useful criticism, inside or out of my head. I've learned I need to be nicer to myself, I suppose!

7. What's the best advice you've ever received? Just keep swimming. And, everyone's going through something.

8. Favorite way to stay in shape? Favorite skin care product? Beer runs, bathroom scrub-downs, anxiety.

I use Dr. Bronner's soap, and then I moisturize. Sometimes I use a scrub. Boring, I know. Wait, I take it back! My new favorite product is this Mario Badescu facial spray with aloe, herbs, and rosewater that I got for $7 in an airport to use on the plane and I LOVE it. It was especially nice in the summer. It's great before I
put on moisturizer. I had major acne as a teenager and had an endless supply of "miracle" products coming in and out of my bathroom in high school, so now I'm into a "simpler is better" non-routine-routine.

9. Favorite website? My current favorite website is a blog - www.thehairpin.com. It's a hodgepodge of smart and funny essays and articles written by a hodgepodge of smart and funny ladies (and some dudes). For instance, you could read an interview with an amazing feminist writer, and then two items down, you'll be reading about how to make a wine glass out of a doll's head. Fantastic. Also, www.dangerousminds.net for an endless supply of music and art I never knew I loved.

10. "Glinda" or "Elphaba"? I've never seen Wicked. I will now duck and cover.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. If could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Uh-oh! Let's see, which hopeless crush should I reveal? I think I'd love to have a dream about dancing with Gene Kelly, complete with gauzy dress and wind machine. He was one of my first crushes as a young'n; his cheeky and dashing demeanor made my little 10-year-old heart race.

12. Looking back, what did you enjoy most about starring in "Spring Awakening"? I could say "everything," but that's a cop-out, so instead I'm going to get sentimental. I'm so grateful for those two years - they started my adult life. I remember some days feeling like I'd lost some direction, like I didn't know really who I was or what was coming next for me, but no matter what, eight times a week I knew I would open the stage door, walk up to my dressing room, and be able to pour my love and anger and sadness out on stage every night with a group of people I loved and trusted. And there were hundreds of people watching, validating that every moment was real and fleeting. It was my second home and my safest place. What I enjoyed most was every single show.

Saturday
Nov052011

Lisa Lewis

I first came to know Lisa a few years back and her kindness, amazing personality, and creativeness really attracted me to her. We became friends and since then have been through some really great times together! We are equal supporters and admirers of each other's work, so to be able to have the opportunity to interview Lisa in this capacity, is a true pleasure and honor!

Lisa Lewis is a rising playwright, essayist, and storyteller who has already had her essays, profiles and book reviews published in The New York Times, ELLE Magazine, Kirkus Reviews, New York Press, and Biography Magazine. Lisa's essays have been written about by The New Yorker, Gawker and The Washington Post. Her live storytelling performances have been recognized by NY-1 News, which called her “a rising voice in the world of literature, comedy and theater.” She spent six years performing coverage and screenplay development notes for New Line Cinema and was a long-time reader and analyst for Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal at Tribeca Productions. Lisa is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Dramatic Writing Program.

Lisa will be presenting an industry-only reading of her play "Schooled" on November 15 at 8pm at The New Ohio Theatre in NYC featuring Tony Award Winner Michael Cerveris, James Kautz (founder of The Amoralists Theatre Company), and Broadway's Phoebe Strole and Mara Davi. Industry reservations can be made by e-mailing SchooledThePlay@gmail.com.

For more on Lisa be sure to visit http://www.LisaLewisWriting.com and follow her on Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a writer? I have been the beneficiary of amazing teachers. When you’re young (and when you’re old) you’re very sensitive to influence and positive validation, and I was very lucky to have teachers who saw that I had a passion and never once discouraged me. As an only child, I spent a lot of time reading, my parents filled my room with books, so my love of storytelling and language was likely born there, between the pages of Ramona the Great, Gone with the Wind and John Grisham.

2. If you could work with anyone in the industry, who would you choose? Holy Moly! The first name that popped into my mind was Woody Allen. Without Feathers is one of my favorite books of all time, not to mention a slew of his movies make my top-ten list (Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Interiors, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Match Point). I once sat next to him in a theatre and he said he liked my shoes. It was a banner day for me.

3. What made you want to write the play "Schooled" and how did you come up with the title? What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I spent a lot of time writing family plays (much to my parents’ chagrin.) My new six-word autobiography is: “It’s not all about my mother” - I wanted to challenge myself to move on from those stories. I was really struggling with how my presentation as an attractive young woman influenced my relationship with male mentors and bosses and that I was at times both conscious and unaware of using that. I wanted to examine the issue of culpability in those situations. Class, and access to opportunity have always been themes that interest me as well. I hope that each character in the play has a learning experience and it takes place at a university – everyone is getting Schooled.

Hopefully the audience will walk away arguing about who’s in the right, who deserved the grant, who was hurt more, and in a wider context start asking questions about how we can fix a broken system where access to opportunity is dependent on your economic class and family background - the achievement gap between children born to college educated parents verses not is heartbreaking. What can we do?

4. You assembled a great cast for this industry reading: Tony Award Winner Michael Cerveris, Jams Kautz, Co-found of The Amoralists Theatre Company, and Broadway's Phoebe Strole, and Mara Davi. How did you assemble such a great cast? What excites you most about this industry reading and how did you decide to have it at The New Ohio Theatre? For me, the cast really underscores the generosity and sense of collaboration in the theatre community. I met James Kautz because I was a fan of his theatre company the Amoralists and had a friend that worked with them and connected me to James. I was terribly excited when he did an early reading of Schooled in 2010. Same with Phoebe who came to me through Matt Schneider, my dramaturge, as did Mara Davi. The first time I met Phoebe I was tripping over my tongue talking to her I was so nervous to be working with a Broadway actress – Phoebe has since become a great friend and collaborator. I met Michael through James – he’s a fan of the Amoralists too. We talked at their after parties and he was so kind and cool and laid back. I knew immediately that some day I wanted to ask him to read the part of Andrew. He’s a tremendous actor. I wanted Andrew to have an underlying vulnerability and I kept imagining Michael while I was writing. A year later, I asked him. His enthusiasm and generosity are really inspiring.

I came to the New Ohio Theatre when a friend, David Gibbs of DARR Publicity, introduced me to their Ice Factory Festival. There I found a community that is dedicated, creative and full of energy. Like the cast, the New Ohio confirms for me that theatre is about working with people who share each other’s passions. The reading is an opportunity to connect with even more talented theatre artists, and that is so exciting. 

5. What is your favorite part of the creative process in writing a play or an article? Where is your favorite place to write? Believe it or not my favorite part of writing is rewriting! There is a thrill in going back to a scene or essay to turn the screw, really develop the characters, find the themes, discover the exact words and feelings. I have witnessed how much better one draft is from the last, and I love the promise of that. It’s a huge relief. I used to enjoy writing at Café Pick Me Up in the East Village, but since I moved to Brooklyn, my favorite place to write is at my kitchen table.

6. What have you learned about yourself from being a writer? Sometimes holding on to facts keeps you from finding the truth. I spent a lot of time writing stories as a way to say, look, this happened to me – but they were so one-sided. Writing plays has allowed me to see events through a prism of other perspectives. Letting characters follow their own journeys, and stray from what I think happened, brings me closer to honest feelings in my own life.

7. You've had articles published in Elle Magazine and The New York Times. What was it like when you found out your work was going to be published? What did it mean to you personally and professionally? Oh my god, I was SO thrilled. It’s such a heady sense of validation – but of course, it only lasts for an instant, and then you’re back to what’s next? I guess that’s the professional roller coaster, yay published, now what? I’m learning to really stop and enjoy any success. Personally, my story in Elle was a little terrifying, because of my family’s reaction to their portrayal in the piece, but it was also incredibly heartening, I had so many readers reach out to tell me they had similar experiences, and it also taught me that I can say the things I really need to say for me. The New York Times piece was just super fun!

8. What's the best advice you've ever received? The playwright Neil Labute told my class at Tisch that our peers’ success is our success too. When a contemporary has a great professional achievement that you’re jealous of, remember that it’s your achievement too. We’re helping each other all the time and we’re part of the same community. Any wall torn down, every connection made, each piece of exciting theatre created, is good for us all.

9. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? I once had a dream about a tiny yellow elephant who was my friend. I wish I could dream about him again.

10. Favorite website? Right now it’s a toss up between The New York Times and Halloween or Williamsburg (halloweenorwilliamsburg.tumblr.com/).

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Favorite way to stay in shape? Favorite way to spend your day off? I substitute anxiety for exercise. I love walking and belly laughs and food. So I guess my favorite way to spend my day off is walking around Brooklyn, while laughing with friends and then we eat.

12. Favorite skin care product? Favorite kind of shoes? I like this Murad Skin Perfecting Lotion – it’s a moisturizer, pricey but I splurge. My favorite shoes are really worn in cowboy boots, but my fav brand is Miz Mooz.

13. Superman or Wonder Woman? Is this for a date? Can I have both?