Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Loren O’Brien: I Need To Vent

By | Published on Thursday 2 February 2017

It’s entirely possible you already discovered Loren O’Brien via her stand up sets, for which she has won much acclaim, but you may not know that she is also an up and coming writer of funny stuff, and this month she heads to Vault Festival to star in a play of her own creation.
As it turns out, the desire to write that aforementioned funny stuff actually came before the stand-up, a fact which I discovered when I put the following questions to her ahead of the upcoming theatrical run.

CM: Tell us about ‘I Need To Vent’ – what’s the premise of the show and what format does it take?
LO’B: Allie returns from travelling and ‘finding herself’, only to find that her friends and family have moved on without her. She decides to take extreme measures to become the centre of their lives again by using her family’s history of mental illness and pretending to be in love with a ventriloquist dummy. All goes to plan, that is… until the doll comes to life. In this story I wanted to take a dark yet silly spin on your typical ‘living room drama’. Because what is the theatre for but not for magic?

CM: What themes did you aim to address with the piece?
LO’B: The coolest idea I’ve ever come across was that reality is subjective (yes I did watch ‘Hypernormalization’). The idea we tell people who we are and we tell other people who we think they are. Nothing is fact, so reality is perspective and it’s ever changing. And blah blah blah. Simple explanation is friendships, they are subjective to the individual… friendships develop or disappear the older you get and there is nothing we can do to stop that. But what I’m mostly interested in is people who try to stop change from happening, and what happens to them when they try to hold on.

CM: The story seems very quirky. What inspired it? Where did the idea come from?
LO’B: There’s a Center For Puppetry Arts back in my home town of Atlanta. I’ve always been obsessed with the puppets there, and would imagine what would happen if they came to life. But then ‘Toy Story’ happened and ruined my dreams. So I crammed ‘Toy Story’ into a play in hopes that people won’t notice.

CM: You perform in the show as well has having written it – do you play the main role?
LO’B: Yes I do. I didn’t necessarily write it for myself but noticed I was using a voice very similar to mine to create her so thought, might as well, save someone else from learning lines.

CM: Can you tell us about the rest of the cast?
LO’B: Oh my goodness they are amazing, so is the director (Katharine Armitage). They’re all friends of mine who just so happen to be INCREDIBLY talented. I’m going to brag but we got some WestEnd stars, TV regulars, and comedy geniuses. I promise you will be blown away by every single one of them. Even if the script is terrible they’ll be amazing. And the best thing about all of them though is how supportive they have been about this piece. I’m extremely honoured, and shall I say it #blessed for these people to be in my lives. Gross.

CM: What’s it like, acting in something you wrote? How does it feel when you hear the lines you have written emerging from the mouths of others…?
LO’B: At first it was hard to be in my own piece, not because because “acting’s hard”, or that BS. I just kept forgetting how to act because I was watching how amazing the rest of the cast were. It’s so exciting to hear someone say a line exactly how you imagined it. For most of my writing career, I’ve been extremely lucky because I usually write for people I know. Or have them based in my mind, I’m definitely a ‘character based story-teller’ rather than narrative. So having people who are going to play the parts in mind is super helpful whilst writing. I like to think it’ll make things easier for all of us during rehearsal process. Unless I’m deluded and they’re struggling to figure out what the heck they’re supposed to do. Then soz.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about any other writing projects you’re working on?
LO’B: I’m now transitioning more into creating TV and film so writing a lot of pitches at the moment and meeting with a few TV producers. We’re even in the process of turning the play into a series, and boy is that a whole other ball game. Amazingly, there are loads of incredible opportunities that have just come up (of course, right before the play) and a lot of deadlines to be met. But that’s the exciting bit, isn’t it?

CM: You’re better known for stand-up comedy than creating theatre pieces, but did you always intend to do both?
LO’B: Not at all. I was actually an actor first, and after I graduated drama school (LAMDA, where I met a lot of the cast) I actually got into stand-up so that I could make this show. Weird, I know. But I thought, people wont necessarily take me seriously as a comedic writer without any background in comedy. So I started doing comedy. Surprisingly it’s worked. Fools.

CM: Did you always want to be a performer? How did your career begin?
LO’B: I think I knew I did, but never thought it would be a career. None of my family is in the creative arts so it was never really something I looked into as a job. However, I was always making films and sketches in my spare time with my friends. So when I did a play (around 17) and loved it so much. I thought, I have to keep doing this, whatever this is. So I finally got the nerve to tell my parents “I want to be in the arts”. When I told them, didn’t say anything initially. Then my dad went, “Are you sure?” and I said “Yes, I’m sure”. Then they both said “Okay let’s do this”. I think they know that when I want to do something, I will, so thought best not to argue.

CM: Where do you see yourself headed in the future? What unfulfilled ambitions do you have?
LO’B: The goal is to run my own comedy TV/Film production company. And right now I’m taking every step towards doing making that happen. I want to be able to do it all: write, direct, perform, produce. Am I greedy? Yes? Is it un-achievable? No. My idols do it, so why can’t I? I know so many talented comedians, whether they be stand-up, actors, writers, directors, producers, editors etc. And I know they want to do it all too. So my goal is to put them all together and see what happens.

CM: What’s coming up next?
LO’B: After this I’m straight into trying out my new solo show ‘Okie Dokie’, which is also on at the Vault Fest. Here’s the blurb: “Loren’s a waitress, her mother’s a bartender, and her grandmother was a ‘nanny to the stars’. Loren’s dream is to become the first female president of the United States, but can you really escape what you were born into? A comedy show about having dreams, as long as they’re realistic.”

Loren performs in ‘I Need To Vent’ at Vault Festival, from 8-12 Feb, and, as she’s just pointed out, in ‘Okie Dokie’ from 22-26 Feb. See this page here for info on the former, and this page here for info on the latter.

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