Last spring, Portland audiences were delighted by actress, playwright and comedian Lauren Weedman, when she performed her outstanding solo show "Bust" at Portland Center Stage. Apparently, Lauren was delighted by Portland as well, because she's coming back with a new show commissioned specifically for PCS entitled "The People's Republic of Portland." Portland theater-goers will be privy to a sneak-peek of this new work when the show will have a staged reading at this summer's JAW Festival in July prior to its premiere in the spring of 2013.
Lauren's plate is quite full these days. She's currently in Cleveland performing "Bust," and will then go to Seattle with her new show "Single Room Occupancy." But then she's coming back to Portland and we'll be happy to have her. I had the opportunity to talk with Weedman about her upcoming show at Portland Center Stage and her thoughts about the process of writing a show specifically for our dear PDX.
Debbie Lamedman: Portland audiences love you, and it appears The Lauren Weedman/Portland theatre connection is a match made in Heaven. How did the idea for The People's Republic of Portland come to fruition?
Lauren Weedman: The idea came after I shot a video that was intended to help promote BUST..it's on Vimeo and it's called "Portland meet Lauren Weedman" and basically they took me around town to see some Portland highlights and I just riffed on what I saw. I think the fact that every single time I walked into the theater before my show and I'd have a 'OH MY GOD--GUESS WHAT I JUST SAW/FELT/HEARD/WAS TRAUMATIZED BY story also helped show that I was deeply stirred (that sounds gross) and inspired by the city.
DL: How do you write about Portland when you're living in L.A.? Is it confusing? Are the people in each city really that different?
LW: That stressed me out at first--the idea of writing a show about a city that I don't live in. But I'm watching Portlandia so I'm fine. It's like I live there. I'm kidding--I'm trying NOT to watch the show so I can come at the show with my own humor and take. I'll be coming to Portland thru-out the next year on 'material gathering' missions. I plan on just sitting in my hotel room and reading a Chuck Palahniuk book. I may look at my window a few times to see if there's any grown men on tiny bikes swinging machetes around.
DL: This summer when your show is read at the JAW Festival, will you be gauging audience reaction to certain elements of the show, or is there something else you hope to gain prior to the premiere next spring?
LW: The Jaw festival will be a great way to have a deadline on drafts of the show and also a chance to get up and tell some stories in front of a live audience. And I'm sure after the festival I'll get a ton of emails from people guiding me towards Portland stories...which I'm completely into.
DL: Typically how long does it take you to write your solo shows?
LW: It depends...I like to have the 'gathering' time period where I'm not really writing-just living it. And then the on my feet--in a room with a director time of just telling the stories and THEN deciding what the scenes are--the characters and the story. I type up the script as I'm working and improving--I don't tend to type it up until after I've had a lot of development time and play time on my feet.
DL: Will the style of this new piece be similar to what we saw in "Bust" or are you going in an entirely new direction?
LW: I have no idea. My collaborators make a huge difference in the styles of my shows...but I will say that I always strive to have an entirely different stage experience with every show. There may be more first person story telling--which I don't always do-combined with character and scene work. I know I'll be dancing naked a lot. That's a given with the subject matter.
DL: What is your favorite thing about Portland? What is your least favorite?
LW: My favorite part is the earnestness and my least favorite part is the rain. I know it's cliché--but the combination of the earnestness and the rain depressed the bejeezus out of me last spring. I also love the tram and the weight gain that I have every time I go because of the damn food.