by Jacqueline Lemieux, class of 2020
Jagged Little Pill, a jukebox musical inspired by the album of the same title by Alanis Morissette, ran from 5 May 2018 until 15 July 2018 at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, with Fun Home star Lauren Patten playing Jo. Jagged Little Pill addresses key issues in today’s world, including sexual assault, gender identity (Jo identifies as genderqueer), and opiate addiction. The show, a smash hit with audiences in Cambridge, is set to transfer to Broadway this fall.
Lauren Patten is a New York City based actress who has pursued theatre from a young age. She was drawn to theatre from a young age, and is now well known in the theatre community. Most recently, she was in the Off-Broadway play Days of Rage alongside Mike Faist, best known for Dear Evan Hansen. She cites Fun Home as her favorite show that she has worked on to date, particularly because of the effects it has had on audiences.
I had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Patten in an online interview this month and was able to ask her questions regarding the Broadway transfer as well as other key topics.
She discussed the pressure that comes along with being a part of a jukebox musical, saying that singing one of Alanis Morissette’s most famous songs — “You Oughta Know” — was incredibly intense, especially singing it in front of an audience full of Alanis fans for the first time. After the initial nerves, however, she says that it has gotten easier, especially as people begin to get more excited about the upcoming Broadway transfer.
She cites “honesty” as the most important message to pull from the show, from honesty about yourself to honesty towards each other, saying that a lot of the show addresses the pain that results from attempting to hide oneself in order to present as more “acceptable” to the world — a message which is likely especially pertinent in relation to Jo, a genderqueer character in a society which enforces a binary view of gender.
As with any show, Jagged Little Pill has experienced a great number of changes from its out-of-town run. I asked Lauren about how that has affected her relationship with the show as a whole and especially with Jo. She says that the changes have allowed the team working on the show to really take a step back and reflect on the show, and that there will definitely be more exciting changes once rehearsals start again in September.
Lauren says that Jagged Little Pill has changed her on an individual level, allowing her to do a lot of self-exploration, as well as exploration within the larger LGBTQ community, saying that playing a queer character in such a pro-LGBTQ+ show has allowed her to explore her own identity (she identifies as queer and bisexual). She says that Jagged Little Pill has also allowed her to advocate for social issues, from the ones explored in the show to those important to her personally, including gun control and climate change, and encourages young people to use social media as a tool for discussion around issues, but not to use it as a replacement for in-person discussions. She encourages organization of clubs and protests within schools and doing what is possible for people too young to vote, from encouraging those who are old enough to vote to assisting on political campaigns.
She discussed the importance of queer representation in the media, saying that representation has been growing in recent years, although it still has a long way to go.
I’m excited that I get the chance to share my story as a queer person, and particularly for me as a bisexual woman with a man right now, getting to share that experience — I think that’s not really an experience that’s valued or talked about that much — I’ve been really grateful for that opportunity … I’ve been enjoying trying to talk about the fact that I got to discover my identity through my work … I want to have more conversations about that because identity and your understanding of it is very fluid.Lauren Patten
As a queer person, she worried about being typecast in her acting career after coming out, but believes that being her true self and being able to express that is more important. She also hopes to be an example or a voice for younger queer people, and sees that as more important than the possibility of being pigeonholed into a certain casting type.
She also talked about characterization, particularly when playing characters she doesn’t particularly relate to. Jo, she says, is very different from her, but also very similar, which she has learned through playing them over time. In general, she says she tends to draw directly from the text, saying that most of the clues necessary to learn about a character can be found within the text. She says she tends to use rehearsal as a sort of “playground” to experiment with different choices a character might make in a certain situation.
She says that the most challenging aspect of being an actress is self-care, from mental health to physical health. She stresses the importance of an emotional balance between life and a show; as an actress, she can’t completely abandon her life beyond the show and always makes sure to make time for friends and family, as well as relaxation and travelling.
She advises young performers who may be considering going into theatre in their future careers to do what they love, even if it seems daunting to pursue an acting career or a job in the arts. She also emphasizes the importance of individuality in the audition room, saying that it is important not to read character descriptions too closely, and keep in mind that you can bring more to a character than is textually stated while still playing the character as-written.