Though Tony Award-winning actor Lena Hall has settled in for a limited run in the new Sarah Ruhl play How to Transcend a Happy Marriage, opening March 20 at Lincoln Center Theater, it won’t be long before she—like the free spirit she plays—sets off on a new life adventure.
“I want to carve out my own career with no boundaries,” she said. “I want to be Lena Hall.”
Performing under her birth name Celina Carvajal, Hall made her Broadway debut as a replacement Demeter in the original run of Cats. She first came to wide public attention as a contestant on MTV's Legally Blonde: The Musical – The Search for Elle Woods and went on to play Stark Sands’ skeptical girlfriend Nicola in the 2013 Broadway musical Kinky Boots. After changing her name, Hall won a Tony Award for her performance in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, playing Yitzhak, the title character's husband and back-up singer, opposite Neil Patrick Harris in 2014. She later reprised her role alongside Darren Criss in the national tour and took on the role of Hedwig at select performances, becoming the first actor to play both parts.
But in-between those productions, she has boasted a host of credits in all media. She's appeared on TV in everything from Girls to Sex and the City, to All My Children to My Little Pony. In her YouTube series Stripped, she gets to try her vocal cords on songs by everyone from Amy Winehouse to Beyoncé to Justin Timberlake to The Doors. Other stage credits include the Keith Haring musical Radiant Baby and the Frank Wildhorn musical Dracula, in which she understudied Kelli O’Hara.
Her current project, the non-musical How to Transcend a Happy Marriage, began Off-Broadway previews February 23 and opens March 20 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre at Lincoln Center.
In How to Transcend a Happy Marriage, Hall plays Pip, a woman in a polyamorous relationship with two men—a situation that proves fascinating and dangerous to the two traditional couples she visits one New Year’s Eve. Pip isn’t afraid of much. Her background encourages her to experiment and push boundaries. But even Pip has her limits, as we see in Act II. Her powers and abilities might even include the supernatural.
“Sarah Ruhl didn’t write the part specifically for me,” Hall said. “But I believe that Pip is basically rooted in me, at least on stage. She’s the closest I’ve come to playing myself. I’m used to playing caricatures. I have so much fun sliding into a character’s mannerisms and figuring out how they speak, their posture, the way they sit, and the ways they react to things that are different from mine ... Now, I’m certainly not in a polyamorous relationship and while, spiritually, I’m a vegan, I wouldn’t pursue the idea of slaughtering my own meat. But I can understand why she does it, ethically. A lot of things Pip says in the play I’ve said myself, and spiritually we’re on the same track”
Even so, her journey is far from over. As for the future, she said, “I love doing everything.” Her September 2015 album Sin & Salvation: Live and the Carlyle captured a New York concert she did. (Listen here.) On April 24, she will be back in New York to perform a club show at Pianos NYC. Her upcoming indie movie, Becks, co-starring Mena Suvari and fellow Tony winner Dan Fogler, is now in post-production.
But Hall said that whatever she plans, music will never be far from her plate. “TV and film are really fun and doing [non-musical] plays is really fun, but, for me, singing is the closest thing I can have to a spiritual experience. It just something that I absolutely need. That’s why, when someone says I’m eventually going to have to pick one, I can't pick. People say to me, 'Do you see yourself as a pop star or a movie star or a Broadway star?’ I say that I see it all happening—each in its own time.”