The first time I saw Daphne Rubin-Vega on Broadway was in The Rocky Horror Show (I was not living in NYC while she was in RENT). I was so taken in by her. Shortly after seeing her on Broadway, I attended her solo concert at The Cutting Room in NYC and made 3 friends that night. Those two events have lead to 14 years of seeing Daphne perform, whether it was on Broadway in Anna in the Tropics, a developmental reading of her semi-autobiographical show FUQs, or one of her many numerous concerts I've attended all over the city!
When I found out Daphne was teaming up with rising playwright Aaron Mark, I knew, whatever they were creating was a must see and that is just what their new show Empanada Loca is, a must see! It is with great pride that I got to talk to Daphne about this amazing show and collaboration with Aaron!
Empanada Loca, a thrilling new play about an indomitable woman who knows that in this dog-eat-dog world only one rule matters: eat or be eaten. Drug dealer. Masseuse. Ex-con. Survivor. "Dolores" has led a life like no other. Now living deep under Manhattan in an abandoned subway tunnel, she has a story you won’t believe – or ever forget. Inspired by the legend of Sweeney Todd, Empanada Loca, presented by LAByrinth Theater Company runs through November 15 at Bank Street Theater (155 Bank Street, between Greenwich and Washington). Click here for tickets!
1. You are starring in Aaron Mark's new show Empanada Loca, which he wrote specifically for you. How did you and Aaron first meet? I met Aaron through Jim Nicola, who called me saying he knew this kid with a genius for writing in the solo genre.
2. What was the first thought that went through your head when he said, I want to write a show for you? I was flattered but not expecting what I read at all. It was so bold and urgent, with an uncanny understanding of the theatrical. I loved it instantly, we met and immediately struck a bond. (I heard also that he wrote it only after Jim told him I agreed to read it!!) We spent the last year working on my FUQs and Empanada Loca on our free time. We focused on making Empanada Loca as terse as we could. We're like the Harold and Maude of downtown theater right now.
3. Empanada Loca is a dark tale. How do you prepare each night to get into this dark space? Music, make-up. Vocal warm up. No drama.
4. In Empanda Loca, you play "Dolores," who is a survivor and has led a life like no other. How are Daphne and "Dolores" alike? Well, we look alike! "Dolores" is a positive person; I like to think I am too. She lives in denial. I do that sometimes. She's been through some super rough shit. Me too. She made some very unfortunate decisions over love. Done that.
5. "Dolores" lives below the city streets in the tunnels of the subway. How do you think you, as Daphne, would survive the tunnel world? Not a snowflakes chance in hell...I'd freeze and Starve to Death.
6. If "Mimi" from Rent came in contact with "Dolores," do you think they would be friends, enemies, or frenemies and why? No. Too meta. "Dolores" would eat "Mimi" and contract Mad Bitch disease....
7. Empanada Loca is a one-woman show. What's the hardest part about putting on a one-woman show? Forgetting my place and not having any back up! Being accountable for every moment. Period.
8. When you are working with a cast, your castmates can sometimes do something to make you break character and laugh hysterically. When you are doing a one-woman show, it's just you and your director. Was there a time during rehearsal or tech when you or Aaron did or said something that made you break character and start hysterically laughing? If so, when and what caused that to happen? Dear God, we're Always laughing! We were working on the part where "Dolores" gets angry at "Luis" and I just blurted out "pussy face!" and we were like children! Nobody could stop laughing! So we kept it. I didn't think I'd be able to do it with a straight face, so we kept it on a dare....
9. In addition to being an actress and singer, you are a mother. Has motherhood influenced or changed the way you choose projects to work on? Yes and No. I really am yearning to do a project that my son can appreciate and enjoy. But I'm drawn to the dark side. I play a lot of broken characters with struggles. Kids have struggles too right?
10. What's next for Daphne Rubin-Vega after Empanada Loca? When can we expect a new album, with "Hurricane" on it? Aw "Hurricane!" Gotta wipe the dust off that one! Aaron and I are starting to tinker with the Mata Hari story, espionage and erotica! Then, there's FUQs (the never ending story) and a fantastic musical I'm working on.
11. Since you were in the first film of Sex and the City, if you could spend a night on the town with Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, or Charlotte, who would you choose and what would you do? If I had my druthers, I'd ditch them all and hang out in Carrie's closet...eating pomegranate ice pops and trying shit out.
Daphne Rubin-Vega is a two-time Tony and Drama Desk nominee (1996/2004) and recipient of the Theater World, Obie (1996) and Blockbuster (1998) awards. She has been a member of the Labyrinth Theater Companysince 1992.
Daphne is perhaps best known for the roles she originated, including "Mimi" (RENT) and "Conchita" (Anna in the Tropics), both Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway shows for which she was nominated for the Tony award. She also originated the role of "Rahmi" (Gum), "Sofia" (Nilo Cruz' Two Sisters and a Piano), "Canary Mary" (Suzan-Lori Parks' Fucking A, Lucille Lortel nomination) and "Lucy" (Jack Goes Boating) at the Public Theater, as well as starred in the Broadway revivals of The Rocky Horror Picture Show ("Magenta") and Les Miserables ("Fantine"). Film credits include "Sheila" in Fall to Rise, detective "Gloria Perez" in Wild Things, starring Kevin Bacon and Matt Dillon (Blockbuster Award for Best Supporting Actress), "Tia" (Flawless, opposite Robert De Niro), and most recently, reprising the role of "Lucy" in the film version of Jack Goes Boating, Phillip Seymour Hoffman's film directorial debut. Other films include, Justice, Skeleton Woman (New York Independent Film award), Virgin, Sex and the City, and I Like It Like That.
Daphne Rubin-Vega is recognized for her singing as much as her acting. She was a member of the girl group Pajama Party, whose single "Yo No Se" was number one on the Billboard dance charts. They made two albums on Atlantic Records before Daphne began writing and recording solo singles for the indie dance label Maxi. In 1997, Daphne cut her first album of original music, Souvenirs on the subsequently defunct Mercury label and in 2006; she produced, performed, and primarily wrote Redemption Songs (Sh-K- Boom). Daphne has contributed to various musical projects, including her notorious version of "Feliz Navidad" for Broadway Cares and her club smash cover of "Rocketman."
In 2005, she received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Kean University. "Dr." Rubin-Vega was born in Panama and raised in New York City where she lives with her husband and son.