As an actor, every job you do, you make a new family. There is something special about theatre and its ability to bring people together in a way that is unlike any other. I have made so many amazing friends throughout my career, and many of them share my love of books and literature. Since theatre brings stories to life, I thought I would feature some of my favorite performers (my fabulous friends and cast mates) and see what their bookshelves look like! Welcome to my Broadway Book Chat!
From the National Tour of Love Never Dies: The Phantom Returns
What are you currently reading?
I’m in the middle of David Sedaris’ latest collection of essays, Calypso. I’ve loved reading his stuff since my mom first gave me Me Talk Pretty One Day when I was in college. A lot of the comedic essays I write (about being an actor in New York and all the craziness that goes with it) were inspired by his work.
What is your favorite book series?
I’m not really a book series kind of gal! I did get through all of The Hunger Games books, which I really enjoyed. But I love reading paper copies of books rather than digital books, and it’s hard to travel multiple books while touring. A lot of books that I read on tour were hand me downs from other cast members that I found on the free table or that the women’s ensemble kept passing around for an informal book club. It was easiest to conserve space by reading something and then letting it go.
Who is your favorite author?
I have a huge soft spot for Rosamunde Pilcher. After college, my mom introduced me to Shell Seekers and I got hooked on her storytelling. She has a wonderful way of describing the ins and outs of daily life in a captivating way. I also love her novel September, which follows some of the same characters as Shell Seekers and expands on the live of characters that were mentioned in her other novels.
What book inspires you and why?
I love Gillian Flynn’s writing style. Her thrillers are the best kind of writing that draws you in and keeps you turning the page. She doesn’t give you all the information up front. Plus her metaphors are some of the best I’ve ever read. She can pair two unlikely things together to paint such a vivid picture of the situation, you feel like you’re watching it instead of reading it.
Which literary character would you like to play?
Ooh, this is fun! I would love to play Vida Winter from The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. This is one of my favorite books! I love the complexity of her character — she’s a mystery to everyone that meets her and she constantly changes her story about her childhood. The novel begins when she summons a local writer to come stay with her and write down the true story of her life before she dies. How fun would it be to to play her at different ages, with all the things that happen to her in her life? Just such a well written novel and a great story that I would love to tell.
If you could be friends with any of the characters you have played, who would it be and why?
Oh man! I would definitely be friends with Carrie Pipperidge from Carousel. She’s spunky and fun – and one of those honest friends who will tell you exactly what she is thinking without sugar coating anything. I adore her wacky sense of humor — and her positive attitude. She’s a good, loyal friend.
What book would you like to see made into a musical/play/movie?
I used to say they should make The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows into a movie — but they just made it into a really cute Netflix movie! They did a great job with it. Highly recommend the book and the movie as well. It’s a quaint, feel good novel.
I would love to see Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos adapted into a musical. There are a lot of colorful characters in that one that would be fun to see on stage. The two main characters are women, one of whom is in her seventies — and we could always use more female roles, especially older ones. Plus I would love to see how they would create the mosaic at the end, maybe they could digitally project it onto a screen. Would be fun to see!
What is the next book on your reading list?
I got really into Ernest Hemingway last year after visiting his home in Key West, FL. I finished A Moveable Feast while I was on tour, which is his recollection of his time living in Paris as a struggling writer with his first wife. His writing is so simplistic and straightforward. I learn so much about being a writer just by reading his works. Now I have A Farewell To Arms waiting for me when I get back to New York after the holidays.
Have you ever written anything yourself?
Yes! I love to write. I think it’s so important to have a hobby outside of performing to keep life balanced when performing opportunities are limited. Writing is that creative outlet for me. I started writing when I was young, encouraged by my amazing mother who also writes. I’ve written essays, comedic sketches, TWO novels and I even took a class where I wrote a spec script for television! I wrote the novels with the help of NaNoWriMo, a nonprofit that encourages you to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, which breaks down to 1667 words a day. I’ve done it eight years and completed the word goal twice! It’s a great way to stop making excuses not to write and to turn off your inner editor. The goal is quantity of words, not quality, so even if you feel like you’re writing terribly, you just have to keep going. The main idea is to get the words down. I love the audacity of the program — writing a novel in 30 days feels so ambitious and when I complete it, I feel like anything is possible. It’s a great feeling. I’m hoping to start editing my novel in the new year and keep that momentum going.
What show are you currently working on?
I just closed the first national tour of Love Never Dies, the sequel to Phantom of the Opera. I was a showgirl dancing behind Meg Giry, who became the headliner of a vaudeville act since we last saw her in the first Phantom. We were the North American debut of the musical and played 41 cities in 16 months! It was an incredible experience getting to meet and work with Andrew Lloyd Webber. I’m currently enjoying some down time with family for the holidays.
What is your favorite show you’ve been a part of and why?
I love love loved my time on the first national tour of Cinderella from 2015-2016. Right before that, I had been a non-union actor for six years and things had been difficult. I earned my Equity card with that tour when I was cast as an immediate replacement. I covered Marie, the fairy godmother (I got to fly!) and Madame, the wicked step mother, two very different roles. I got to go on for both multiple times! Plus I loved my ensemble track. Dancing in the ball every night in a huge gown was so romantic.
I also adored the cast, who were all so kind and welcoming when I joined the tour. I made some great, life long friends there. Our principals were very inclusive and set the tone for the rest of the cast to be kind, just like the theme of our show.
I pinched myself daily. Plus the income from that show allowed me to travel to Europe for the first time during a layoff, a lifelong dream that I couldn’t afford before. I truly couldn’t believe my good fortune when I booked that show. It was such a magical time in my life.
You can check out some of Lauren’s essays on her website www.LaurenLukacek.com!!