"Call Me Adam" chats with Contemporary Theatre of Dallas' Artistic Director and actress Sue Loncar who is mounting James McLure's Lone Star and Laundry & Bourbon (which she also stars in) through July 26 at Theatre Row's Clurman Theatre in NYC (410 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue). Click here for tickets!
Lone Star is a character study of a pair of Texas "good ol’ boys" carousing on a Saturday night while Laundry & Bourbon focuses on the discontent and very funny gossip of three small-town wives whose marriages have turned out to be less than ideal.
1. From July 5-26, you are bringing Contemporary Theatre of Dallas' productions of James McLure's Lone Star and Laundry & Bourbon to NYC. What made you want to have a NYC run of these shows? I wanted to bring the "real" Texas to New York. I wanted New Yorkers to see Texas as Texans know it, not Texas as it's displayed on TV and in movies. As part of that, I wanted our company to be made of Texas actors. James McLure (who just recently passed away) loved Texas, and it shows in Lone Star and Laundry & Bourbon. I also knew James McLure personally, and thought he was hysterical. We successfully produced these two shows in Dallas twice, in 2004 and 2006 to critical raves and full houses. It remains to this day one of our most beloved shows. I also thought it was good timing with all the love out there for Friday Night Lights, the TV show that they filmed in Austin that was so brilliant.
2. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing these shows? I hope audiences get a sense of how proud we are of our state and culture, but that we are also able to laugh at ourselves. To me, though, the much bigger theme of the show is the love and strength of family and friendship. And how that sustains us in our life. That's what I get out of it every time I perform.
3. You are going to be starring in Laundry & Bourbon. What do you identify most with about your character? Her hectic life with her kids-I have six! I understand her love and devotion to "Elizabeth," her best friend, and how they will always be there for one another. I love that "Hattie" is a survivor; you can throw a situation at her, and she will come up with a solution and turn a negative into a positive. My friends would probably say that we're most alike because I'm loud and talk a lot! Everyone has always said this is the perfect role for me, and I'm not quite sure how to take that....
4. Since Laundry & Bourbon focuses on the discontent and very funny gossip of three small-town wives whose marriages have turned out to be less than ideal, how have you gotten through moments of discontent in your life? I lived in Amarillo, Texas for 12 years in a very tightly knit community that was filled with generations of family. I didn't know anyone and had to work my way in, which was no easy task! It was a place where getting into the Junior League was like trying to win a senate seat, and until then I had been a big city girl having grown up in Atlanta and Houston. Everything you did was under scrutiny, and everybody did talk about everybody. It was like living under a microscope. You don't have the luxury of any anonymity. The only way to get through that or anything is faith, family, and friends.
5. What made you want to be the Artistic Director of Contemporary Theatre of Dallas? What has been the most rewarding part of this journey and the most challenging parts? I didn't! Honestly, I just wanted to do a couple of shows a year that I loved with roles that really mattered to me. The shows had to be important to me if I was going to take that kind of time away from my family! I wanted to be close to home so I didn't have to spend a couple of extra hours in the car driving. The next thing you know I own a building, and I have a full season and subscribers. The whole project snowballed on me! It got totally out of control from what I had had in mind. I was not remotely prepared to do this job; I still am not (my 14 year old daughter knows more about theater than I do)! I have an English degree! I know next to nothing about the technical end of theater and less than that about the business end. I hadn't even acted a lot by comparison, and Dallas has a huge acting pool. My focus has always been on being a Mom! It still is my #1 priority. It's my staff that makes everything possible. They make this happen, and I get to work on the artistic projects. Ignorance truly is bliss! My secret is that I've always found and hired the best people in town! They surround me and make me look good!
The most rewarding part of acting is the family we create when making a show. It is always devastating to me when it is over. I go through an almost crippling withdrawal and depression. I miss the show and the people so much. Plus, our patrons are the loveliest, kindest, most supportive audience you could ever hope to have! They love us, and they feel like CTD is their home. They never stop telling me this. They fill my heart with such love and joy and such a feeling of appreciation that I can't even describe it. I always say, "Damn the naysayers or critics. If my audience loves the show I have done my job!" That's who I aim to serve and please.
6. Contemporary Theatre of Dallas' mission to present plays that depict relationships of all kinds. Whether it is a mother, sibling, a lover, a friend or a child, we all struggle to connect, to communicate, to find intimacy, acceptance, tolerance and above all, love. How did you decide for this to be the theatre's focus when choosing plays? I'm all about relationships. I wish I had been a therapist. I would have been a damn good one. I wanted the theater to be an extension of who I am. I wanted it to feel like a home, and it's close. Our building is actually an old church! The building brings its own personality to the whole enterprise. I wanted the theater to represent what I think is important, which is relationships, community, overcoming things, and not feeling alone in this world with your problems. I want people to leave feeling like they have had a shared experience, that they saw themselves and their life play out on that stage. I want them to hear their story.
I think we all want to feel a little less alone in our struggles and be able to identity with one another. We are all so much more alike than we are different. I want to highlight that. The best is being able to move people, to touch their heart. I love when three days later they are still thinking about a scene from the play, or something a character said, or that a character (as they often tell me) is either "just like" them or someone they know. That just thrills me! Someone just told me "Hattie" was the spitting image of her best friend all through high school. I loved that. She then preceded to tell me all about her!
7. What's the best advice you've ever received? Take reviews and critics with a grain of salt. It's just someone's opinion. That is so true. One day you're up and the bee knees and the next time maybe not so much, so you can't let the critics be your litmus test. Unfortunately, as a producer, it can effect the box office, so it does matter. Just don't take it personally. Maybe you were having a bad day or maybe the critic just doesn't like that play, and that's okay. It's not the end of the world, and it doesn't mean I was wrong to choose that show. I love that about art. There is no right or wrong.
8. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer and Artistic Director? How much stress I can take is unfathomable to me now! I would have never thought it possible to survive the chaos. I've learned I can perform after my best friend's daughter killed herself and after learning my beloved grandmother died. I've learned I can come straight from the hospital on morphine with a major migraine and perform this very show as well as Steel Magnolias. He'll, I've learned I am a steel magnolia. I've learned that actors are the most passionate people on earth and will work tirelessly to get the job done. I've learned that almost anything you think can go wrong will at some point. Nothing surprises me anymore. You just learn to deal with it-just like life! In the end it's what YOU think about your performance that matters. It's your experience! Claim it for yourself! Don't give that power to anybody else.
9. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? To create love, peace, and understanding between all people. I would promote the concept that we are all so much more the same than we are different, that we all want the same things out of life: to love and be loved, to be healthy and safe, and to guarantee our children's happiness. Wow, if I could do that...imagine!
11. What do you want to be remembered for? For having a heart as big as TEXAS.