Conference Call: Playwright Teresa Lotz & Actor Sean Hudock: "She Calls Me Firefly" at SoHo Playhouse
Sometimes a play comes along that you know you have to dig deeper into and that was the case with Teresa Lotz's new play She Calls Me Firefly. I wanted to talk with Teresa, I wanted to chat with lead actor Sean Hudock, I wanted so many things. So, I dove in and discovered a show filled with lots of emotion and topics that need to be talked about. I also love that Teresa has worked on other projects with fellow "Call Me Adam" participant Sarah Rebell and Sean has starred alongside Law & Order: SVU's Kelli Giddish, whom I just love!
She Calls Me Firefly is about the importance of the tenacity of the human spirit— how even though we can be handed a terrible lot in life, we are essentially programmed toward good and will always work to triumph over darkness. The play creates a new and refreshing way to relate a story of dark subject matter.
She Calls Me Firefly takes place on Nickel Beer Night at Freddie’s Place. "Ken" has come to drown his sorrows, but no amount of alcohol can wash away the pain of his broken relationship with "Levi," nor the dark and difficult secrets of his past. As you enter Freddie’s you will instantly be transported from New York City streets to a Kentucky dive bar.
She Calls Me Firefly is a joint production between New York theatre companies Parity Productions and New Perspectives Theatre Company and is a proud partner of NYC Pride. She Calls Me Firefly will play the SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam Street, between 6th Avenue & Varick) from June 6-23 at 7:30pm (band starts at 7pm). Click here for tickets!
1. What made you want to write She Calls Me Firefly and how did you come up with the title? I never sat down and said "I'm going to write a play about this guy named 'Ken'..." I just started writing scenes and slowly but surely discovered that they all went together. The name "Ken" is short for Kenaz, the nordic rune that symbolizes fire, and all the metaphors that come along with that: passion, light, strength, determination. In a runecast, Kenaz is one of the brightest runes that can appear, and it is almost always a good sign - a sign of hope and eventual earned success and happiness. That's where "Ken's" name comes from, and his mom, "Veronica," affectionately nicknamed him "Firefly," which is in line with that image.
For a long time, the play was simply called Firefly, until I was working on a scene (no longer in the show) where "Ken" told "Levi" "she calls me firefly," and then corrected himself and said "she called me firefly." The relationship between the past and present is an important part of the story I'm telling, and I think the current title captures that and the theme of light in darkness.
2. What is something you feel the audience should know about this play before coming to see it? We recently have decided to include trigger warnings in our marketing, and I think that this is one of the best decisions as a production team that we have made. This is what we have been using: "This play contains depictions of sexual, psychological, and substance abuse, and discussions of suicide." The audience is really immersed in the action, and there are some really difficult moments within the play. I certainly would not tell a survivor that they should NOT see the play, because I want as many people as possible to see the play. But if these subjects are challenging for you, I want you to know before you walk into the play that you will be confronted with them so you can do whatever you need to do to protect and adequately prepare yourself.
3. Why do you feel it's important to have your play run during Pride Month? There are many plays and films about coming out, being gay, and the challenges that come along with that... this is not one of those plays. With that being said, it is not insignificant that the play is a NYC PRIDE partner! Three of the four characters in the show are queer, and that feels right to me. My identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ family is integral to who I am as an artist. "Ken's" identity as an LGBTQ+ person may not be integral to the plot of the play, but I do think it is an important part of his character and the main romantic relationship that we see throughout the play is his relationship with his boyfriend, "Levi." Substance abuse, as well as suicide, is also a huge issue in the LGBTQ+ community, and I think it's important that we continue to talk about those things in that context.
4. You have been quoted as saying “At its core, She Calls Me Firefly is about the importance of the tenacity of the human spirit— how even though we can be handed a terrible lot in life, we are essentially programmed toward good and will always work to triumph over darkness.” I am one of these people who always look to the positive through the darkness, but not everyone can see the light. Where do you feel you got that positive outlook from? My grandmom, Baba, taught me very early in life about the self-fulfilling prophesy. Believe it will happen and it will. I live by those words daily, but I also recognize that this optimism does come largely from my own privilege. It's a lot easier to say things are going to be okay when you've lived a life where things were, overall, mostly okay. And for me - they were! Obviously, we all have our difficult experiences, but I grew up in the world as an able-bodied white woman with two loving parents who are still together, an older sister, a white(ish) picket fence, and a dog. Things could have been so much worse, and I recognize that and am grateful.
5. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My parents, Paul Ryan Rudd, being an only child, Mary Martin’s Peter Pan, magic shows I used to put on at family gatherings, Shakespeare, and a stubborn desire to be a part of something greater than myself.
6. What made you want to be part of She Calls Me Firefly? Like many, I grew up with addiction and it touches my life everyday. I’ve seen loved ones fight for their survival against a disease that’s fighting for its own. I’ve been hurt and devastated by it and I feel an overwhelming sense of pride for those who are fighting every waking moment of it. In She Calls Me Firefly, Teresa’s crafted an inventive, intensely human and deeply compassionate portrait of addiction and I feel so lucky to be a part of this project knowing that this story has the potential to connect with those who’ve been touched by a similar struggle.
7. What do you relate to most about "Ken" and what is one characteristic of his that you are glad you yourself don't possess? "Ken" is a survivor and despite the cards he’s been dealt he still fights for the light on the other side of pain. I think we share that. I’m grateful that the weight of my own life hasn’t drawn me to his extremes.
8. What is one pain either in your life or in this world you just wish you could wash away?
Teresa Lotz: I am practicing being transparent about my own mental health, especially since SHE CALLS ME FIREFLY is so much about mental health. My struggles with weight, especially how it relates to my own mental health and anxiety, have been a large source of pain for me. At my heaviest, I was 320lbs, miserable and unhealthy. This was about five years ago. It makes me sad that I lived so much of my life not caring about my own body and purposely doing things (i.e. eating a whole pizza in one sitting) that I knew would hurt it. And I think there was a part of me that felt like I deserved that. I'm still working on all this stuff (aren't we all??), and ultimately, though I'd say I'd like to wash it away, it has made me who I am today. It's part of me and my work, and I am working on letting it be part of my story.
Sean Hudock: I think pain is an essential part of life but if I had a wish it would be a little more self-love. Just the right amount to keep struggles real but not so overwhelming. I have a hunch that this world would be a better place if we loved ourselves a little stronger.
9. What is one event in your past that you feel has made your present much better?
Teresa Lotz: Meeting my wife, a random happenstance over ten years ago, has changed my entire life. I do believe in fate, and I believe she came into my life to make all good things happen. With Jessica, I have grown into a better person. Together, we continue on our own journeys of healing, pursuing meaning, and cultivating good in the world.
Sean Hudock: Every single rejection, failure, misstep in my life has brought me to this living, breathing moment. That’s all I can ask for.
10. What secret from your past are finally ready to reveal?
Teresa Lotz: This one is very serious and little known...I was in a punk rock band called Blame It On Berklee for about three years. We played a whomping total of two shows, one in a backyard for someone's 16th birthday, and another in my Catholic church basement. We were incredibly bad-ass, and I've still got the black eyeliner chops to prove it.
Sean Hudock: I try to be as open as possible but I like to keep some stuff pretty close to the vest, though anyone who needs to know my "secrets" knows them.
More on Teresa:
Teresa Lotz writes music and words. Her work includes Red Emma & the Mad Monk (music, Ars Nova Ant Fest 2017, dir. Katie Lindsay) written by Alexis Roblan, A Surrealist Sort of View (music, Prospect Theater Company’s WORLD VIEWS – 2017 Musical Theater Lab, dir. Dev Bondarin) with book-writer/lyricist Sarah Rebell, Mommy’s Little Princess (Reading, The Episcopal Actor's Guild, The Barbour Award Finalist Readings, March 2018, dir. Daniella Caggiano), ThreeTimesFast (book and music) with bookwriter/lyricist Naomi Matlow (O'Neill Theater Festival Semi-Finalist, Pallas Theater Table Read Series Winner 2017, The Script at Stage 74, NYC, dir. Michael Bello 2017, New York Film Academy, Winter New Works Series 2016, NYC, dir. Robert Longbottom), The Awakening (music) with bookwriter/lyricist Sarah Rebell (book/lyrics) (Reading, Musical Theatre Factory Developmental Series, Playwright’s Horizons, 2016 dir. Celine Rosenthal). Teresa is a member of New Perspectives Theatre Company Women's Work Lab (2012-2017), Dramatist’s Guild, ASCAP, and the League of Professional Theatre Women. Musical Theatre Writing, M.F.A. New York University.
More on Sean:
Sean is an actor, producer and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. Film includes Private Romeo (Outstanding Actor, HBO Outfest); Powerless opposite Kelli Giddish, and upcoming The Chaperone by Julian Fellowes starring Elizabeth McGovern (Masterpiece). Theatre includes The Miracle Worker, Twelfth Night (Alabama Shakespeare Festival); Sex with Strangers (Cleveland Play House, Cleveland Critics nomination); Nine seasons with the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey including The Diary of Anne Frank, The Comedy of Errors, The Lion In Winter opposite Tom Pelphrey and Lisa Harrow, Twelfth Night, Romeo & Juliet, Brecht’s Life of Galileo, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream; "Romeo" in Romeo & Juliet (We Happy Few, DC); She Calls Me Firefly (Parity Productions); Jesus Hates Me (Emigrant Theater Co, MN); Ionesco’s The Chairs (Teatr Yunova Zritelya, Russia); The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial opposite Ed Asner, James Cromwell, and Sharon Gless (LA Theatre Works).
Sean was a producer on Ars Nova’s Small Mouth Sounds. Work he has developed through his company Wild Root Co has appeared at Arena Stage and Primary Stages.