Whether staging movement for this season’s revival of Les Liaisons Dangereuses or choreographing the Tony-nominated Waitress, story drives Lorin Latarro. A Juilliard grad, Latarro made inroads in the Broadway world as a dancer (making her Main Stem debut in the 1999 Kiss Me, Kate revival) before working as the associate choreographer on Broadway’s American Idiot and graduating to choreographer with Scandalous. Now, Latarro drives the story as she makes her directorial debut with A Taste of Things to Come at Off-Broadway’s York Theatre.
Taking her spot in the director-choreographer’s seat, Latarro says that her approach doesn’t veer very far from her stance as a choreographer. “I always approach my movements from a storytelling and storyboarding point of view,” she says. As the leader of the new musical by Hollye Levin and Debra Barsha, Latarro executed a clear vision and crafted the musical numbers to serve that greater goal. “I have a keen understanding of when choreography gets in the way; if it’s over-choreographed it can get in the way of storytelling and the forward motion and trajectory of a piece,” says Latarro. “Don’t get me wrong, I danced in Movin’ Out and A Chorus Line and Guys and Dolls, [but] I’m really starting to learn how far to go for what you’re trying to say.”
Her subtle but evocative choreography for the middle America-set Waitress—what Latarro calls “expressionistic and human and pedestrian”—is proof of her judiciousness and her ability to tap into the mentality of a piece. Her form matches content, and that holds true for Things to Come, the story about four mid-century Illinois housewives coming into their own. “I tried to be meta by starting the show with very tight parameters, like a corset almost, and use the numbers in a pastiche sort of way,” she says of the 1950s-set first act. The show begins as performative, with Joan Smith (Paige Faure) serving as the perfect hostess to the audience. “By the end of Act II, I’ve been more deconstructive,” Latarro explains. “The women are really looking at each other, they’re not singing out to the audience,” mirroring the theme that these women now lead lives that they have chosen.
In that first act, Latarro interwove commercials of the era to enmesh the audience in the throwback experience, before fast-forwarding to the more progressive and less presentational second act. “[I wanted to] use the styles in which we direct and choreograph in a meta way as the decades fold forward,” she continues.
Still, in light of the results of Election 2016, the archaic ways of the 1950s feel less pastiche than planned. The newfound political implications of the show are something Latarro had to deal with. “You could look at [the show], and take a scene, and take those girls out of the corset and—in a way—it could be 2016,” says Latarro. “And that’s totally depressing and it’s totally real. You could also look at it and go, ‘Gee, progress is not a straight line. It’s messy and it’s bumpy.’ It’s slow. Change is molasses.
“I wonder how we’ll all feel in 2025 and 2040 as we try and close the pay wage gap and we try to get more than one in ten female directors on Broadway,” she jabs. Latarro’s Off-Broadway direction is a step towards more women directors on the Great White Way.
Latarro learned from three such experts on her last three Broadway projects, having worked with Donmar Warehouse artistic director Josie Rourke on Liaisons, Tony winner Diane Paulus on Waitress, and Tony winner Marianne Elliott on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. From her work with these pioneers, Latarro feels she is a more benevolent leader and an artist encouraged to advocate for her own talent.
And just as these four women have demonstrated generosity, inclusivity, and openness as female directors and individual craftspeople, the characters in Things to Come represent both a familiar “type” of woman and specific personalities.
“I think the macro and the micro are different,” she says. “On some levels they are phenotypes or archetypes, but, individually, we worked really hard to figure out all of [each character’s] personal ‘I wants.’”
As for Lorin Latarro, she wants a world where “great artists are great artists”—no matter their gender, and—if she gets really specific—for Things to Come to travel around America. “It couldn’t be a better year for this little show to go to all these tiny theatres across America,” she says. “It would make me so happy.”