Read on as Heather tells me all about the ramifications of her role of a lifetime, what it means to be a powerful sexual woman in today’s society, and how she juggled all this while remaining close to her steel magnolia of a Southern mom.
Heather! Your story sounds fascinating. Why don’t you start off by telling us what “Lemonade” means.
Heather Litteer: Lemonade started out as a poem about all the different jobs and acting roles I have had. They say your real life can mimic the kind of acting work that comes to you, and in my case it did!
Lemonade also represents my southern upbringing. I was raised in Georgia and we drank a lot of lemonade during those hot summers. I moved to NYC at 18 but I kept a close relationship with my mother over the phone and we talked almost daily. She was a pure Proper Southern Woman as well as a Steel Magnolia. She always had these southern sayings. “When life hands you lemons, you just make lemonade” was one she used constantly, so that’s where the title came from. Lemonade is the sweet and the sour in life. The play weaves in and out of my experiences with film work and how it affected my relationship with my mother. It’s about never giving up hope and to always keep pushing that envelope. If you fall down 12 times, get up 13 times.
So, your tagline’s pretty bold – you’re “not a hooker … but you play one on TV”. You’ve been cast as strippers and junkies as well. What’s wrong with that?
Heather: I don’t see anything wrong with playing strippers, junkies or hookers or even being a stripper, junkie or hooker. Except being a junkie is not so healthy! So long as no one is getting used, abused or hurt, I love and respect them all.
I was a stripper and even danced at Billy’s Topless as well as numerous nightclubs like Jackie 60 in the New York gay 90’s. I was part of the House Of Domination, and my nickname was Jessica Rabbit. It was a blast!
Junkies, hookers, and strippers are fun roles to play, but they can also be heartbreaking. When that’s the only way people perceive you, and you’re being repeatedly typecast and stereotyped, it can get old. I was the girl people called to play these roles because I was brave and I wasn’t afraid to get naked!
Your show is about how women are treated in the industry. Talk to me about when you first started seeing a pattern of misogyny.
Heather: All these roles started to come in after I did the extremely terrifying sex scene in Requiem for a Dream. That was the role that has led to me being typecast for the past 16 years. I thought working with all these amazing people, like director Darren Aronofsky and actress Jennifer Connelly, would take me to higher places. I suppose that dream was a little naïve. But I’ve always had big dreams! I just had to learn how to play the game. In Lemonade I talk about my experiences and how it makes me feel and I think this will be relatable to a lot of woman. Being treated like a piece of meat, even though I went in willingly. There are aftershocks from that. And that sex scene in Requiem is legendary!
Your show is a solo show, so you’re wearing a lot of hats. Who is your favorite character to embody? And tell us a little about one of their scenes.
Heather: Working on this show has been a real challenge with all of the different characters, but I love it!
My favorite character to play is definitely my Mom. It brings her back to me for little moments and I feel like she’s right there in the room with me. When I embody her it makes me feel close to her, and that is extremely cathartic. It makes me miss her so very much and I wish I could have just one last conversation with her. She passed away suddenly during the initial writing of Lemonade. I used to get a lot of guidance from her and I use a lot of her southern sayings in the show. This show is dedicated to my Mom, Nancy.
How hard is it for people to “get” the true issues of Lemonade? Do you have people who, when you talk casually about the show, try to explain it away with “Well, maybe that’s just your experience”, or “Maybe you just didn’t meet the right people?”
Heather: There are a lot of different issues covered in Lemonade. There is the mother/daughter relationship. It’s a struggle between two different sets of values, my mother with her southern roots, and me with my New York contemporary ideals.
Its also about how being a powerful sexual woman in society is perceived. Most people’s views are so old fashioned. It deals with the struggles of an actress who is feeling marginalized and like she is only being seen through a tiny keyhole when she has so much more to give. The through line of the show is to always have hope. To work hard, and never give up. There is something waiting for you right around the corner, always with a Lil’ Sugar Honey!
Heather, thank you so much for giving us a glance into what makes you so special. I know your mom, Nancy, would be proud of the work you’re continuing to do, and it’s lovely that the show is dedicated to her.
For the rest of you- make sure to check out the world premiere of Heather Litteer’s solo show Lemonade!
The Club at La MaMa
74A East 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery
April 15-24 – with performances on Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 6pm
Tickets are $18 and can be purchased in advance here or by calling 646-430-5374