As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Lauren Patten, a 2020 Tony nominee for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for her work as Jo in the Tony-nominated new musical Jagged Little Pill. Also seen on Broadway in the Tony-winning Fun Home, her Off-Broadway credits include Days of Rage and The Wolves. A two-time Drama Desk Award winner for the aforementioned Jagged Little Pill and The Wolves, Patten is currently part of the cast of the new virtual musical Estella Scrooge, which also features Carolee Carmello, Clifton Duncan, Paul Gordon, Patrick Page, and Betsy Wolfe and flips the script of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol by adding a modern sensibility and additional characters and storylines from Great Expectations, Little Dorritt, Bleak House, and more.
What is your typical day like now?
Definitely getting a lot more time with my cat, Snug, which he is thrilled about. I'm learning to work out at home—I bought weights and everything! I'm also taking a lot of long walks, which is something I've always loved to do in New York. I can still find myself walking down streets I’ve never seen before, even after almost six years living in the city. Mostly, I've realized that I don't need to fill my days with as much stuff as I used to. I'm perfectly content and fulfilled without packing my schedule, which is a big shift for this Type A Virgo.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
Oh man, I'm supposed to pick just one?! That’s so hard. I discovered a podcast called Kinswomen this summer, which features discussions about race between white women and BIPOC women—the creators, Yseult [Polfliet] and Hannah [Pechter], are wonderful people. As for books, I just got my copy of President Obama's memoir, A Promised Land, and I'm excited to dive into that.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
I certainly don’t want to speak from a place of authority on this, because I am new to antiracist work. That being said, I think that audiences should keep up with the work of organizations like Black Theatre United and Broadway Advocacy Coalition. And I think that for myself, my fellow actors, and the folks in power, we need to remember that the real work has not yet been done. There has been space made for BIPOC artists to openly share their experience in this industry, but that is just a beginning. I think it’s easy as white people to think that just hearing BIPOC folks share their (often traumatic) experiences is the work. But we need to push further to create actual change.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
You are not alone in feeling alone. Does that make sense? We are all going through incredibly difficult times. Simple actions really help me with my mental well-being. Am I drinking enough water? Have I eaten enough? Do I need to move my body? I've also gotten better about actively reaching out to my friends during this time. Don’t wait till they call or text you—they probably need the connection just as much as you do!
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
Getting back together with my band has been so joyful. We’ve played two live stream concerts from Rockwood Music Hall, and even though it’s strange not having the live audience, getting to play together and share music has been a godsend during this time. I’m also taking a writing class right now. It helps me to have accountability and motivation through a class to show up for my other creative outlets.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
I got to film the musical Estella Scrooge in the fall, which was a completely unique experience—rehearsed on Zoom, filmed one actor at a time on a green screen. It was definitely a challenge, but a very fun one. The cast and the creative team are stellar. I can’t wait to watch and see how it turned out!! I've also gotten to do some performances for Jagged Little Pill, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the One Night Only special on NBC. I'm grateful for any opportunity I have to stay connected to the theatre community.
What organization(s) would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
See above: Black Theatre United and Broadway Advocacy Coalition. I’m also partnering with Food Bank for New York City on their 5 Borough Challenge to provide meals for New Yorkers in need. I'm on Team Manhattan!