Sickness unto Celebrity

Something's very wrong with Lauren Weedman, and she'd like to tell you about it.

RASH

The Empty Space Theatre, 3509 Fremont N., 547-7500 previews begin Fri., Oct. 25, opens Wed., Oct. 30

Lauren Weedman forgot to shake Jon Stewart's hand. She'd already appeared on Comedy Central's acclaimed political satire series The Daily Show With Jon Stewart as an "on-location" reporter, but had never been on camera with him in the studio. And she forgot to shake his hand.

"I left him hangin'; I didn't know that you were supposed to immediately turn to him and shake his hand after a story," she swears. "And I didn't do that. And you don't do that. And I didn't do it on purpose. I just didn't know—I was so nervous."

The rules have changed for Weedman. It's one thing to be admired in Seattle for your uncannily well-observed, multicharacter solo performances—she's thrown local audiences into hysterics beginning with Homecoming and all the way up through 2000's Amsterdam, which, among other things, imagined a Dutch rock band named Teeth Meat—but New York, television: different ball game. The otherworldliness was just beginning after the missed handshake; she says a staffer told her: "Um . . . you didn't shake his hand. And that kind of makes Jon feel like maybe you don't want to be here."

The fracas over the faux pas, the fanatical desire to fit into the cult of celebrity, and the oddity of finding her hair the subject of debate on the show's Web site chat room will somehow all feed into Weedman's latest solo comic reflection, Rash. Following along the lines of her four previous shows, she'll be playing a multitude of characters inspired by those she's met in her own life. The piece premieres at the Empty Space this fall, two years after she moved to New York and one year after she joined The Daily Show as a full-time reporter (she's on a "freelance" contract now). She's still forming the piece in her own mind, though she knows at the core of it all she'd like to make serious fun of "what has to be wrong with you to want to be famous."

Going back to her hambone childhood, she admits, "I was always trying to dramatize everything to get the attention. And then, all of sudden, when you get something big . . . it's the same kind of energy that makes you want to be famous. You want to get that, and then it's never enough. Somehow I can't live intensely enough. And so, onstage every-thing gets to be just so important, and it's the only time when I don't feel that anxiety. So the play is about that a little bit."

That energy, though, is surely what gives her such a knack for solo work, isn't it?

"It's hard to take control when I'm in a group," she agrees. "I don't take a lot of risks. It's like if somebody is choking, and there's eight of us, I'm not the one to go, 'I got it!' But if I'm the only one there, of course, I'm like, 'I got it.'"

She pauses, checking herself, worried she's come off a bit troubled.

"You know I'm adopted?" she asks quietly, feigning extreme gravity.

And that's the thing about Weedman—she always checks herself. She's keeping tabs on her own pretensions, and here she is in the unenviable position of trying to create a one-woman show about keeping tabs on your pretensions. A conversation with her is time spent with someone who's mocking the idea of herself before you can do it. She looks at herself as microscopically as the characters she creates; she's part of the game. It's a fine line for a performer to walk—it would be easy to fall into self-indulgence—but Weedman usually doesn't stumble.

Thinking of her first real touch of fame has her overflowing with tongue-in-cheek melodramatics about how it all turned her head.

"When I got The Daily Show, I was crying—I was like, 'It happened. Oh my God, I got my dream!'" she recalls. "But then within three weeks I'm like, 'Did I not shake his hand?! I thought I shook his hand.' You just get crazy; you don't see straight."

She's very grateful for The Daily Show r鳵m頢ooster, but, you have to ask, what did she feel about her year of fame? Naturally, it didn't measure up.

"It's like the times I've been in some independent films where you're with the other people in a limo who are like, 'This is our 15 minutes! We're gonna take it!'" she says. "And I remember just always being in the back seat going, 'It's not my 15 minutes. You can take this one; I'll wait.'"

swiecking@seattleweekly.com

FIVE PICKS FOR FALL

The Off-Broadway Find. An amnesiac awakens each morning to no memory, and one wild day she ends up hanging with a bunch of increasingly gonzo oddballs, including a man who converses via his sock puppet. David Lindsay-Abaire's New York hit, Fuddy Meers, naturally is going for surreal yuks. ACT's production stars Cindy Basco (a regular of Los Angeles' innovative Circle X company) and, to top it off, also boasts the season's best local ensemble: Peter Crook, who has been giving knockout performances since his Seattle debut as Joe in Intiman's Angels in America; Lori Larsen, who regularly brings down the house (remember her Anne Sexton riff in the Empty Space's The Psychic Life of Savages?); goofball Leslie Law, the best thing in ACT's Polish Joke last season; gentlemanly Stephen Godwin, a fine Herbie in the 5th Avenue's Gypsy; Tim Gouran, an attractive, ambitious fringe performer; and R. Hamilton Wright, one of the city's most seasoned pros. ACT Theatre, 292-7676. Previews begin Fri., Sept. 13.

The Book-to-Stage Adaptation. Intiman took an admirable stab at Nickel and Dimed a few months ago, and now the New York-based Foundry Theatre is having its way with another relevant nonfiction tome. Rock journalist Greil Marcus' seminal Lipstick Traces recounts the crucial significance of anarchy as it relates to punk rock; Foundry's ode to the book champions rebellion and takes us on a ride through historical insurgency using several iconic characters, including Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, as guides. Expect to drop in on Johnny Rotten's first audition while contemplating free will. On the Boards has peerless taste for this kind of stuff, so there's no reason to doubt the experiment won't be worth it. On the Boards, 217-9888. Runs Wed., Sept. 18-Sat., Sept. 21.

The Comeback Kids? Annex Theatre still has its fanatical minions, but anyone who experienced the company back in the glory days of its relationship with Alison Narver (now artistic director of the Empty Space) knows it ain't what it used to be. With the exception of its recent user-friendly documentary experiment Verbatim, it seems more and more like the insular company cares less and less about engaging a wide audience. This month's Stage Door, mounted at Empty Space, looks to change that; it should squeeze generous laughs from the Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman comedy about a wisecracking group of gals hoping for their big Broadway break. Using a 17-member cast (welcome back, Josh List!) and director Ed Hawkin's raucous sensibility—he had a heyday with Annex's similar The Women years ago—the production could have legions of happy Seattleites running out afterward to rent the sublime Katharine Hepburn/Ginger Rogers movie version. The Empty Space Theatre, 728-0933. Opens Thurs., Sept. 19.

The Obscure Import. Robert LePage has London Critic's Circle and London Evening Standard awards. He speaks French. And he's Canadian. All of which, in American English, translates into "Huh?" The Far Side of the Moon gives Seattleites a rare chance to rectify that ignorance. A writer, actor, solo performer, vivid stage director, and filmmaker from Quebec, Le Page is an intensely cerebral artist—in his acclaimed film Le Confessional, from 1995, a search for identity jumps from past to present and commingles with the Quebec shoot for Hitchcock's 1952 thriller I Confess—and he may not be for all tastes. But Far Side, based on the musings of poets and scientists, teams him with a Laurie Anderson score in a piece contemplating our place in the universe—something it wouldn't hurt any of us to stop and consider these days. Moore Theatre, 292-ARTS. Opens Fri., Oct. 4.

The Broadway Musical Crowd Pleaser. Well, really, you have to allow yourself at least one piece of smiling fluff per season, and The Full Monty seems to be the way to go this time around. It's understandable to arch your eyebrow over something like Seussical the Musical (also coming this fall), but this happy adaptation of the beloved British film about six working-class Joes finding self-esteem through stripping softened a lot of jaded New Yorkers upon its premiere. Though the 5th Avenue's record with big shows is spotty—even the stellar Hairspray had the requisite opening night embarrassing technical gaffe—Monty would seem to have charms to carry it through any worries: The book is by Terrence McNally (Love! Valour! Compassion!), the score by pop writer David Yazbek, and, yes, you'll get a teasingly brief full frontal. The 5th Avenue Theatre, 292-ARTS. Opens Tues., Nov. 19.

 
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