PHOTOGRAPHY BY MICHAEL KUSHNER
STORY BY MICHAEL RAVER
Lauren Molina is more than an actress. She’s more than a musician. Upon a first meeting, there’s an effusive sense of fun and an infectious taste or silliness. She’s might be tiny but the Helen Hayes winner, who has become known to theater audiences by way of her performances in Broadway juggernauts like Rock of Ages, Sweeney Todd and Mary Me A Little is not short on a supply of energy. Yet she’s no diva. With a bevy of projects on the horizon, including the off-broadway musical comedy Desperate Measures, as well as work with her cheeky band, The Skivvies (with musical partner, Nick Cearley), Molina dishes on acting, music, rejection and maintaining her sanity.
Imagista: How’d the role in Desperate Measures come to you?
Lauren Molina: In April of 2017, playwright and lyricist Peter Kellogg emailed me, asking if I’d be interested in playing the role of Bella in a reading of Desperate Measures at the York Theatre. He’d seen me in Sweeney Todd and after watching some of my comedic sketch videos like “Damien Does Shakespeare” and other Skivvies performances on YouTube, he felt like I would be great for the sexy, funny, belty Bella. We did the reading and there was such an amazing response that they fast tracked the show to a full production at the York when an open slot was available in the fall of 2017. It had such success that we extended at the York four times and finally opened a transferred production at New World Stages in June 2018.
Imagista: Has there been a difference in the show at The York versus how it is at New World Stages?
Lauren Molina: The script and score has had a few tweaks since the York production. My character now begins the show with a prologue that sets the tone and brings the audience into the comedic world of the play. The set is mostly the same, but bigger for a larger stage. Many of the costumes are new and more fabulous (especially for my hilarious strip tease number). We also have a new cast member, Sarah Parnicky, who plays Susanna.
Imagista: The show is based on Measure For Measure. Was there discussion about Shakespeare in rehearsal?
Lauren Molina: As the show is very loosely based on Shakespeare’s problem play Measure for Measure we didn’t spend too much discussion time on it. Desperate Measures has really taken the timeless themes of law vs. justice, corruption of power, religious hypocrisy, sexuality and morality, and craftily created a clever script that is streamlined and thoroughly comedic. As the script is written in rhyming couplets, having experience with Shakespearean verse was helpful, but not essential.
Imagista: What do you want audiences to walk away with?
Lauren Molina: I want them to walk away feeling the joy of having escaped for two hours into musical theatre comedy bliss. I want them to hum the tuneful melodies. I want them to giggle thinking of all the funny and absurd moments onstage. I want them to be inspired and uplifted. Then I want them to come back and see it again.
Imagista: You’ve been jumping back and forth between a lot of projects: acting, playing music in The Skivvies…it’s a lengthy list. How do you reconcile all of this?
Lauren Molina: It’s hard to maintain the energy, but I thrive on being busy. I feed off of creative collaboration. I feel very lucky to make a living as an artist where I can create my own work and fit it into my theatrical career. I don’t get enough rest. Also, when I’m wearing so many different hats at once I have learned that I can’t be so hard on myself if things aren’t always perfect. I’ve discovered that accepting imperfections is essential. We are all only human.
Imagista: Do you approach your work with The Skivvies differently than you do your acting career?
Lauren Molina: I do approach them differently. I am fully in control of my work with the Skivvies, but with my acting career I usually have to wait for someone to hire me. The Skivvies allows me to create and perform material that we create at venues that we book ourselves. I like to approach both styles of work with a sense of humor.
Imagista: People watching your work might think that you’re always constantly on one project or another, but when you do have periods of downtime or if there’s a period when auditions aren’t coming your way, how do you manage that?
Lauren Molina: I generally fill my down time with traveling, stimulating my brain by visiting new places, or seeing family and friends. If I have downtime from acting I try to do more shows with the Skivvies and make more music. I also try to take advantage of downtime by exercising or doing yoga.
Imagista: How do you handle the rejection?
Lauren Molina: I had a teacher in college once tell me that after an audition, forget about it, you can’t change what happened in that room, so distract yourself by shopping or getting an ice cream. When I was younger, I let myself feel rejection, be angry or annoyed for a day or two, then simply force myself to move on. These days I’m hardly phased and say “Oh well, on to the next!” I know how subjective this business is, so when I’m not chosen for a role after I give a solid audition, I let it go and know that there are many factors you can’t control. I also deal with rejection by creating my own work with The Skivvies. Rejection doesn’t feel bad when I can turn to my own projects and be creative while earning income.
Imagista: What’s next for you?
Lauren Molina: I’d love to do more film and tv. I’ve done small parts on tv and low budget films but I’d love to dive into that world. I currently have a contract with Desperate Measures thru the end of October. I’ve got a holiday show tour planned with The Skivvies called “I Touch My Elf” which will be several cities in California, NYC, Philly and more. In spring of 2019, I’ll be working on an actor musician version of “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” (conceived by myself and Nick Cearley of The Skivvies) at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.