It’s no secret that Mariah MacCarthy’s beautiful Ampersand: A Romeo & Juliet Story struck a deep chord with me; I loved so many things about it. For me it was one of the highlights of this season’s Fringe Festival. So when the wonderful Lauren Hennessy was the recipient of an award for overall excellence for her work as Romeo I was thrilled that this talented woman was being recognized for her remarkable skills as not only an actress but as an overall performer. In MacCarthy’s Ampersand Romeo is a rock singer with a devoted following … and the minute Hennessy takes the stage there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that she’s got the goods to pull it off.
The Fringe dust has settled, and I was able to chat with Lauren to find out how much of Romeo is really Lauren, how she feels about working with the talent Mariah MacCarthy … and just which role she’d love to play if anything were possible. Read on …
Lauren! First of all, congratulations on winning the FringeNYC 2011 Overall Excellence Award for Performance! I was lucky enough to see your show and I was captivated by your performance – so I know how well deserved this award is. I’d love to know a little more about your character and the journey that you, as an actor, took.
Ampersand is “A Romeo & Juliet Story” … and you embodied the character of Romeo. Tell me who this updated Romeo is to you personally.
LH: It’s funny you ask…This Romeo is essentially me if I were driven solely on emotional reaction alone. You’ve heard of id, ego and superego? Romeo is the personification of my id. From wearing her heart on her sleeve, to being carried away by romantic distractions, to murdering in a flash of anger, to feeling and living out the extremities of love, hatred, anger, rage, sex and joy. Some filters are good and I have to work every day to keep my impulses under control as not to affect other people negatively. For as we saw with Romeo, it could be detrimental to my life. So yeah, Romeo hits home with me and was not a tough suit to try on.
Romeo is a singer – and obviously so are you … Romeo is charismatic, charming and it would seem (by the way you adlibbed) so are you. You see where I’m going with this. How much of Romeo is pure Lauren and how much was already on the page?
Hahaaaaaaa I suppose I answered this question above. When I was a kid, I always wanted to be the Fonz. Mariah just helped me live my dream. I know that sounds douchey. I just loved the charisma and charm of James Dean, Marlon Brando and 50′s era cool-cats. In some way I identified with them at a very young age. Romeo reminds me of these guys very much so. Mariah has a weird way of writing me.
You’ve worked with writer Mariah MacCarthy and Purple Rep before. How important is it as an actor to create a dynamic with a playwright? What does it wind up doing for the character?
Mariah and I have found each other. Thats how I see it. She writes characters very relatable to me in terms of speaking and personality but also in terms of parallel lives. Many experiences that my characters have had, I’ve had. The characters that I’ve played in Mariah’s work always have a mental and emotional struggle with themselves. I constantly am thinking too much and putting too much pressure on myself to do what I think is the right thing. So does Romeo, Devon and Cindy (all characters I’ve played in Mariah’s plays). These characters, like me, are their own best friends and their own worst enemy.
Because I’m able to embody and portray Mariah’s characters so comfortably, we’ve developed a trust to a point where she lets me take some artistic license with the character’s choices, lines and development. This is a gift I’ve never experienced before. I can’t say I’ve even met most of the playwrights whose work I’ve done. This is a true artistic partnership and we’ve vowed to make each other famous.
Of all the roles in the world, written or unwritten, what would be your next dream role?
Damn this question is like: what’s your favorite song or book? … I’d love to play Nancy in a Broadway revival of Oliver! Probably not my dream role but it’s the first thing that popped into my head just now. Oh, I know! Whatever role gets me a TONY. Can I say Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar…? I’m thinking of other roles now. You said just one. Nevermind. Skip?? I’ll get back to you!!
You just won an award … I think you can give me two. And if there’s anyone who can play Nancy AND Stanley Kowalski, dang – Lauren … it’s you.
Bonus question – no holds barred! Feel free to tell me anything at all … More about Ampersand, tell me a joke, give me the lyrics of your favorite song, explain what you’re most passionate about, plug a project (or a friend’s project!) The Mic is yours!
Ok selfish moment…GO: I won an Icelandic Academy Award [for the movie 'Clean'] this year and an ‘Overall excellence in performance’ from NYC Fringe…I am currently seeking representation!!! LaurenHennessy.com.
C’mon! Someone represent this chick already!
Lauren … it was great to find out more about you, and I hope as your star keeps rising we can keep checking in with you. Again, congratulations on all this wonderful (and well deserved!) success. You’re a rockstar.