We've taken some shots at Lauren Weedman before. Usually, in the context of her last one-woman show here in Portland, The People's Republic of Portland. Weedman, who's from Indiana and lives in L.A., shared quips and observations about the city, including stories about tattooed strippers, bearded baristas and kombucha. (Weedman went on to mount similar tour guides in Boise, Philadelphia and other cities.)
She's back in Portland to debut another show, Lauren Weedman Doesn't Live Here Anymore, a country musical in which she imagines her alternate reality as Tammy Lisa, the name her birth parents gave her before putting her up for adoption.
So when Weedman wanted the chance to fire back, WW agreed.
WW: Was there something in particular that led you to reach out to us?
Lauren Weedman: There was a listing for JAW Fest for my show, and it said, "Lauren Weedman is back to make fun of a city she doesn't even know, or she's not going to do that anymore, but maybe she'll talk about her butt looking fat." It was just like [sticks up her middle fingers].
I want to talk about People's Republic, but I read an interview in which you said you starting doing one-woman shows because there weren't parts for the kind of woman you wanted to be. I thought that put your work in an interesting context.
When I was in theater with other people, I was either put in a comedy, which is fine, but I was never cast in dramas, and I was like, why can't it be both? Though I know that my self-absorption is an ongoing joke. But I'll think it's not just about me. If you're honest, it's everybody's truth.
I feel like men in theater don't get called "self-absorbed."
No fucking kidding! I remember in Seattle, when I first started doing [solo shows], people would comment about how I was willing to be ugly. Like why would that even be an issue?
That listing and both of your previous shows here in Portland were before my time, but I did read the reviews we ran.
I didn't read them, but I know they're bad. But I may agree with some of it, too. The first time I did People's Republic, it was not what I wanted it to be. So they could have been right.
Why was it not what you wanted?
It was just funny moments. I don't know if "pandering" was the right word. But I'm still a theater artist, and I'm still trying to find a narrative. I think the real reason it affected me was that there were snarky reviews, was that I was married, and while I was doing the show, he was in the middle of this affair with our baby sitter. In every scene, there was a weird clue of what had been really happening. So whenever anyone's like, "It's fluffy," I'm like, "I totally get you." It was, 'cause it wasn't done yet.
But then you also did it in different cities.
I normally tour shows, but now I'm a single mother. It's pretty lazy; people like it because it's about them. But I try to make it a little more complicated than that. I'm always talking about what's going on with me, too.
Can you talk about the Lauren/Tammy dynamic in your new show?
I thought, I don't want to lay myself out there anymore. I'm going to play a character. I've always had this self-hatred, like, "Turns out I'm a piece of shit." Tammy Lisa is this embodiment of I'm not very bright, the theater I do is not very deep and that I've made awful decisions, that I'm just this fucked-up country white trash. Which is true, but it's not the full thing. Putting the Lauren [character] in there made it all more complicated.
SEE IT: Lauren Weedman Doesn't Live Here Anymore plays at Portland Center Stage, 128 NW 11 Ave., pcs.org. 7:30 pm Tuesday-Sunday, through April 30. Additional show noon Thursday, April 6. No show Friday, April 7. $25-$70.