BAPS: You’ve lived all over the US and on both coasts! Where were you born and where are you living now?
LR: I was born in New Jersey and spent my first five years in a very small town right next to Princeton living across the street from a cornfield! However, after a family move I spent most of my life growing up in Arlington, Virginia right outside of Washington, DC. I went to college at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, ended up in London for a while, but my heart really belongs to NYC – where I live now in the heart of the West Village.
BAPS: We ran into you at Stattbad Wedding, the crazy swimming pool turned club and art space in Berlin… Had you visited Berlin before that?
LR: Yes! I have been lucky enough to travel to Berlin twice now. The first was while I was studying abroad at the British American Drama Academy in London. They gave us a week off so a few of us back-packed across Eastern Europe and Berlin was the first stop. The second time was earlier this year when I went to attend screenings at the Berlinale Film Festival.
BAPS: Any lasting impressions of the city?
LR: What strikes me most about Berlin is its innate ability to constantly re-invent itself. Even in the three years in between my visits I found it to be a drastically changing and evolving city. However, I still feel sadness when I’m there. This century proved to be a dark one and and I felt a bit fragmented and torn between feelings of anger and despair for humanity both times I was there. However! I was also the drunkest I’ve ever been in my life in Berlin, so that says something about how much fun Germans are to drink with! Plus, given my industry as a theatre and film producer, I’m so allured by the city’s vibrant arts community.
BAPS: Germans are indeed fun to drink with! What’s the craziest thing that has happened to you in Berlin?
LR: Ended up on a pub crawl where all 3 of my friends that I was traveling with hooked up with the tour guides!!! A German, an Aussie, and a Spaniard — at least it showed me how international of a city Berlin can be
BAPS: Good one. What about the Berlin art scene – what did you find unique or inspiring?
LR: Experiencing the 62nd Annual Berlinale Film Festival was an incredible experience. Not only did I get to see many incredible screenings of features and shorts, but I met really inspiring artists and from a producers perspective it was really great to see German reactions to Americanized films and to see actual German films IN Germany from a German perspective. And then another night on that same trip, we ended up somewhere in the district Wedding at a crazy multi-media art installation that projected live images inside of an abandoned swimming pool named Stattbad Wedding. Won’t forget that anytime soon!
BAPS: How do you find this similar or different to the art scene in NYC?
LR: There are plenty of film festivals and art installations similar to what I experienced in Berlin happening in New York City, but I found the reaction of the audience (and German audiences in general) to be SO different than how Americans tend to respond to things that they might find “difficult” to understand. It’s funny to say, but the “art” itself doesn’t seem so different at all.
BAPS:Tell us a little bit about your own artistic endeavors – what drives and motivates you?
LR: As I mentioned my main line of work is as a producer, but I am also a director and writer. Producing is something I fell into because I was always just trying to get my own work up, but after years of working at it now I have really just become passionate about helping other people tell their stories as best I can. I am motivated by the fact that I think everyone has the ability to be an artist and has an important story to tell. And by being a producer and creating art, if I can get just a few people to step away from their stress and just spend some time imagining what “could be” for a moment by getting lost in a story, then perhaps the world could some day become a place where people can actually listen to each other. Then I will have done my job.
BAPS: Your current project is called “The Wedding Thieves” for Duct Tape and A Dream Festival… that’s a funny name!
LR: The Duct Tape and A Dream Festival is produced by Roots & Wings Theatrical, an off-off-Broadway theatre company that I have served on the Board for since it’s founding almost 4 years ago. This is the 5th time I have produced and directed for this particular new works festival so it’s very close to my heart, but especially so this time around because not only will I be directing, but I will be appearing on stage for the first time in a long long while.
BAPS: What’s it about? Who’s stealing what in the wedding?
LR:The Wedding Thieves (written by a talented young writer Colette La Pointe) explores the volatile relationship between two desperate sisters who support their meth habit by crashing weddings and stealing the swag. It is a story about addiction, competition, and the ties that bind.
BAPS: Sounds intense. So you will also be piling on the “meth-addict” stage makeup and perform?
LR: It may seem out of place to hear that I’m performing in this because I have been focusing on directing and producing for the past few years, but I have been working with two actresses on this project since March and literally just a few days ago a very sad family tragedy forced one of the actresses to step down from the production. After weeks of rehearsal this was a crushing blow, but I believe in this play so much that I refuse to not let this story be told. I have been memorizing non-stop and will be endeavoring to perform this fantastically scary (and at times, darkly funny) little play which examines addiction in young American women in a way that I have never seen before.
BAPS: For Berliners traveling to NYC, best place to get pizza in NYC?
LR: Oh goodness. That’s tough because every place has their own little niche following. But my boyfriend and I always go for a place called Artichoke when we have a chance!
Thanks and good luck in The Wedding Thieves, Lauren! Check out more of Lauren’s work here.
Mackenzie Hawkins (left) and Lauren Rayner (right) in The Wedding Thieves. Photo Credit: Alia Ktari.