5 Questions with Lauren Letellier

Bridge Street Theatre in Catskill is heading into the month of March with four weekends of solo shows. Every Friday through Sunday for the rest of the month, you will; get the chance to get intimately acquainted with a performer as they take on these high-wire acts of theatrical daring. How do you hold the audience’s attention, weave your spell, sip your water and remember all those lines? Solo performer Lauren Letellier is first up with “The Village Cidiot,” which she also wrote running this weekend, 3/10-3/12.

Lauren Letellier/Photo provided

PW: What’s the story of “The Village Cidiot”?

LL: I moved to New York City from a small New Hampshire town, and once I arrived, I knew I’d found my tribe, my community, my city.  I guess I was born with an urban soul. In 2014 my husband and I were both victims of corporate downsizings, and my husband was eager to get out of NYC and start a new life away from the corporate grind. But I wasn’t!  I’d just written my first play and was loving everything about my new artistic life.

Nevertheless, we couldn’t afford to stay in the city and keep the weekend home we owned in the Hudson Valley. I hated leaving — I think the marks from my fingernails as I was dragged away are still visible on East 52 St. The day we left Manhattan, I had to borrow Xanax from my neighbor!  I’d lost my home, my urban lifestyle, and my professional identity in one fell swoop.  And I also lost my youngest brother to cancer., around that time. It was tremendously disorienting and dislocating. All of a sudden, I had to adapt to a new life I’d never planned for. One of the biggest surprises was that many of the local people who’ve lived in the Hudson Valley all their lives do not appreciate the influx of “down-staters” moving here. The rush of new arrivals since Covid has caused property values to shoot up and priced a lot of locals out of the market. The locals call anyone from the city who moves upstate a “Cidiot” and relish telling stories of the countless ways Cidiots are ill-equipped to live in rural areas. The Village Cidiot is the story of how I had to change and adapt to thrive and be accepted by the community. It’s a comedic fish-out-of-water story about navigating life’s disruptions with humor and compassion.  Today I am the Town Historian for Hillsdale, in Columbia County, a role I could never have seen myself in just a few years ago.

PW: How did you get started writing a one-woman show? 

LL: I’ve always been a writer, and I’ve always kept track of life’s absurdities. Eventually, I realized that my story of leaving urban life for a very different rural life had the makings of a stage play. I developed the show in Melinda Buckley’s OneUp Solo! workshop and have since workshopped it in different venues.  Melinda is a brilliant actor/writer herself — her solo show “Mother (and me)” follows “The Village Cidiot” at Bridge St. Theatre’s SoloFest, and everyone should see it!  But she’s also a rare talent who can help people pull together disparate pieces of their lives and shape them into a fully-realized piece of theater.  

PW: What’s the best thing about performing this play? 

LL: I love hearing from self-described “cidiots” and also from long-time locals that they find things to relate to in the show, that they’ve experienced the same kind of dislocation and alienation in their lives and been able to come out the other side, as I did. There are a lot of universal themes in the show that people are connecting with.

PW: How did it come to Bridge Street Theatre, and how will this production be different from its previous incarnations? 

LL: I submitted the script to Steven and John at Bridge St. Theatre last year when I heard they were going to mount a month-long festival of solo shows. This will be the first fully-produced performance of “The Village Cidiot.” Previous incarnations were staged readings and workshops.

PW: What’s a play that changed your life?

LL: In the mid-1980s, I joined a community club in NYC that had a very active theater group. I didn’t know anything about theatre, but they asked me to run a spotlight for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” It wasn’t just the play that changed my life; it was the experience of sharing laughter with strangers in the dark, the camaraderie of theatre folks, and the small miracle of participating in the act of collective creation. I was hooked. I graduated from tech work to acting and ultimately played Princess Winnifred in “Once Upon A Mattress.”  Those days are long past, but I continue to see that experience as the spark that ignited my desire to write and perform for theater.

“The Village Cidiot” 3/10 & 3/11 @ 7:30pm, 3/12 @ 2pm. Tickets: www.bridgest.org

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