Who are you, and where might audiences have seen you before?
I'm Lauren Crowley, most recently seen at Korda with Cardinal Music Productions as Sheila in Hair, Street Urchin in Little Shop of Horrors, and Morticia Addams in The Addams Family.
What was it like for you making the transition from musicals into a play like Stop Kiss? What could you bring with you from your musical experience - and what did you have to change or adapt?
I love musicals. I love singing and dancing and acting WHILE singing and dancing - it's just a blast. I think my past experiences with musicals have both helped and hindered my process for Stop Kiss. Being able to find the "song moment" across the scenes has helped me to pinpoint emotional highs and lows throughout the show, as well as isolate the underlying state of my character in moments of mixed messages and confusion. I think one of the biggest adaptations to be made from the characters I've played in musicals to Sara in Stop Kiss would be the manifestation of her emotions. In a musical, when faced with conflict or strong emotion, a character often expresses their state of being through song. Finding the way my character might cope with their "song moments" without the use of music has required a deeper study of human nature. Choosing outburst vs. withdrawal, or patience vs. action -- these moments define Sara as a "real person", as do her reactions to the consequences of her choices. She has really pushed me out of my usual habit of connecting to my character, and into the process of defining her based on her experiences instead of my own.
What can you tell us about Sara? Who is she and what does she need?
Sara is a lovely human being who has fairly recently started living her life for herself. She got out of a relationship she felt was holding her back and made her way to New York to teach third grade in an area where she believes she can really make a difference. She is strong, caring, and confident, albeit a bit idealistic at times. I think Sara's needs often stem from her self-assured nature, and are a reflection of the fact that she doesn't always understand that not everyone has as clear a vision of who they are and what they want for their lives as she has. She seems to want Callie to have herself all figured out, but I also think Callie's lack of direction and self-awareness is one of the things Sara is initially drawn to.
That raises another question, doesn't it? Why would Sara be so intrigued by someone who lacks self direction and self awareness?
Definitely a challenging question. It can't be as simple as chalking it up to "opposites attract" or any other available cliché, but there is some truth to the excitement in a balancing act of two seemingly different personalities. Sara is one of the few people who seems to bring out Callie's silly side - she seems much less guarded around Sara than any of the other characters. Seeing this lighter side to Callie solidifies in Sara's mind that she could be a much happier person, but doesn't necessarily know how to go about making the required changes, or even what those changes are. Based on some of the references to Sara's life in St. Louis, I get the impression that moving to New York was the beginning of the strong, self-assured Sara we see. She makes references to finally being where she wants to be, which implies that while she was back home and with Peter that she was living similarly to what she sees Callie doing; she was letting life happen to her rather than creating the life she wanted. This connection is likely what encourages Sara to help Callie find what she wants and go after it - it is less about being attracted to her lack of direction or self-awareness, and more about caring for Callie because of who she already knows her to be and wanting to help her find the same happiness that Sara was able to find for herself.
Building on what you've just said. What is Stop Kiss telling us about love - in general, and in particular the types that Sara has experiemced?
Sara's experiences with love all seem to be very different from the next: her family, her students, Peter, and Callie. She describes her family as a cult, jokingly of course, but her parents do seem to be a bit overbearing and protective. She never mentions any siblings which leads me to believe she is an only child, likely contributing to this extreme closeness by which she feels a bit smothered. Her love for her work and her students is evident in her idealistic view of her kids in New York - she is truly proud of their accomplishments and seems to prefer working with students in higher risk populations, offering them the support and love they may not otherwise be getting, in order to feel fulfilled. In a way, I think this love is more self-serving despite its seemingly altruistic nature; feeling that her students need her gives her a sense of purpose she is otherwise lacking. Her love with Peter strikes me as the kind where she ended up staying in the relationship for much longer than she was happy in order to continue meeting someone else's needs. Caring for Peter lead her to prioritizing him over her own happiness, ultimately leading to a break up that felt like a long time coming for one party, and an absolute shock to the other. Although I definitely think leaving was ultimately best for Sara, it is possible that no longer being needed by Peter was part of what prompted her need to be needed by her students instead. Sara's love for Callie is the love that catches you off guard - the one you never saw coming. They bring out the best in each other while balancing each other's extremes. It's friendship first, full of support and empathy and fun, with the added bonus of wanting to hold hands and cuddle whenever possible. The overall message in Stop Kiss regarding love, to me, is that you need to be open to love without judgement of where it is coming from. If we close ourselves off with rules or expectations about who we will or should or have to end up with, we are almost guaranteeing our own unhappiness. Love is about being open, vulnerable, honest, and all those scary things that make it difficult to have with just anyone. Accepting that, and wanting it for ourselves and for everyone else would truly be a step towards a more loving world as a whole.
Finally, why should people see Stop Kiss?
Stop Kiss is a beautiful show. It takes a variety of perspectives on relationships between people - how they form and how they influence our lives. The story is beautiful and tragic with great bits of humour thrown in. The characters are very relatable and I have no doubt the audience will see pieces of themselves in each of us on stage. Not to mention my cast-mates are all such incredibly talented, genuine people and they are truly a joy to watch. The show will make you feel, it will make you think. It will make you want to hold your loved ones close, and remind you how important it is to speak your love.
Photo by Jaqcues Scheepers Photography