Call Answered: Lauren O’Leary: "Little Gem" at Irish Repertory Theatre
With numerous credits overseas, actress Lauren O’Leary is making her Off-Broadway debut in Irish Repertory Theatre’s Little Gem. It’s so exciting to have been given the opportunity to speak with Lauren as New York audiences get to know her!
Little Gem, written by Elaine Murphy, takes the audience on a journey throughout a year of extraordinary change; just ask Amber, Lorraine and Kay, three generations of North Dublin women who find themselves suddenly facing the unexpected. Young Amber’s case of indigestion – or perhaps it’s a brutal hangover? – grows into something more, while her mother Lorraine discovers salsa dancing after an incident at work leads to therapist-suggested self-care. Grandmother Kay, “on the wrong side of sixty, but not dead yet,” struggles to take care of a personal itch while adjusting to life as a caretaker for her beloved Gem. As the year moves forward, the women confront their individual challenges with courage and humor, finding strength in one another and discovering the beauty and complexity of family.
Little Gem stars four-time Academy Award nominee and two-time Golden Globe Award winner Marsha Mason as “Kay,” Brenda Meaney (Party Face) as “Lorraine,” and Lauren O’Leary (The Awkward Years) as “Amber.” Little Gem plays at Irish Repertory Theatre through the recently extended date of September 8. Click here for tickets!
For more on Lauren follow her on Twitter!
1. You are currently making your New York Off-Broadway debut in Irish Repertory Theatre's production of Little Gem. What is like to be on the New York stage? Is it everything you imagined? It’s fantastic. I do sometimes have “pinch-me” moments on stage where I go a bit outside myself and realize where I am and what I’m doing, so I’m very grateful.
2. What made you want to be part of Little Gem? I love the character of “Amber” and have for years. There were few characters around like her to audition with, so thankfully Elaine wrote her. And the writing is just beautiful; funny, moving, clever.
3. What do you relate to most about your character “Amber"? She can be quite blunt in an unfiltered way which I often am. Or honest, whatever you want to call it.
4. What is one characteristic of hers that you are glad you yourself do not possess? I don’t think there’s any, to be honest. I just think hers are more exacerbated versions of mine and that’s why I love playing her.
Actually, I don’t smoke.
5. In Little Gem, three generations of women in a North Dublin family, each of whom, is facing a personal challenge in their life. What is a personal challenge you have faced in your life? What did you learn about yourself from this challenge? Acting has been a challenge in my life. I’ve had to pursue it in different ways. I didn’t get into Drama school straight away or even into a certain class in my university at one point. I felt all the things you do: rejection, failure. But I thought if this is what I want to do I need to assess why I didn’t get in and what I needed to change. I gave it time, worked on my craft but also went away and made my own theatre, directed, wrote; decided acting wasn’t the most important thing in the universe and then became a much better actor for it.
6. As the year moves forward in the show, the women confront their individual challenges with courage and humor, finding strength in one another and discovering the beauty and complexity of family. Who do you find strength in when going through rough times? My family and I are one complete rock. We’re a boulder. My mother is the source of much of my strength in challenging moments.
7. Who or what inspired you to become an actress? I did a class when I was four, in play school, when a drama teacher came in. We had to walk around the room changing emotions and she said “curious” and I immediately did that (now) obvious thing where your put your finger on your chin and ponder the sky. And she said “That’s it! Everyone look!” I was chuffed with myself but also wondered where I’d known to do that from, because it was an unconscious action. Those are still the most exciting moments today where, unknown to yourself, you do something in character and later go “Who did that?” That’s the magic.
8. What is something you have discovered about New York Theatre that you wish you knew beforehand? It’s very different to Irish/British Theatre. To be honest it’s very expensive for young people. The Irish Rep does “Green Seats” $25 tickets if you’re under 35 which is what many places do in Ireland and the UK. I wish more Broadway shows were easily accessible to young people and people from lower income households.
9. Who do you want to work with on the New York stage as you continue through your career? I love New York Theatre Workshop and The Public Theater. Their seasons are so interesting and the type of theatre I love to see. What the Constitution Means to Me and this summer’s’ Much Ado About Nothing in the Park were the best shows I’ve seen in America so far.
10. What is something about yourself that you would like to share with us that you haven't talked about in a previous interview? I used to be completely fluent in Irish (Gaelic) but because I haven’t been speaking it since I left school I’m less fluent and I feel guilty about it all the time because I’m so proud to know my national language.
More on Lauren:
Foreign theatre includes: The Awkward Years (The Other Room Theatre) for which she was named in the critics’ choice by the British Theatre Guide as 'Solo Performance of the Year 2018'. Pegeen Mike in Playboy of the Western World (Richard Burton Company/Theatr Clwyd), Albatross (Richard Burton Company/Paines Plough), Portia in The Merchant of Venice (Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama), Natalya in Three Days in The Country (RWCMD), Animal Farm (Samuel Beckett Theatre). Training: B.A. Drama & Theatre Studies, Trinity College Dublin. M.A. Acting, The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama.