TAEM- As a New York City boy, and publisher of The Arts and Entertainment Magazine, I always look forward to the many talent people that hail from The Big Apple, as it is known. One of my latest discoveries is the very talented actress and author, Laurie Graff. Laurie, tell us about your early days of performing on New York stages, and some of the plays that you were in.
LG- Straight out of college (Binghamton University) I did summer stock in Thomaston, CT. We did twelve shows in thirteen weeks, and I had the time of my life doing roles like Charity (Sweet Charity), Ado Annie (Oklahoma), Carrie Pepperidge (Carousel) followed by dinner theater Corie Bratter (Barefoot in the Park). But right after that, a dream came true when I got my Equity card playing Frenchy, the beauty school dropout, in Grease on national tour and then Broadway. Other wonderful gigs Off B’way, regionally and on national tour included Lala (The Last Night of Ballyhoo), Chrissy (In the Boom Boom Room), Nunsense, A… My Name is Alice, and Laughter on the 23rd Floor.
TAEM- Many actors say that stage performances strengthen an actor’s ability. With many Students of the Arts who follow our magazine, can you tell us about this aspect of acting and how it has helped you in your career.
LG- Dialogue. You know how it works, when it works, how the words fit in your mouth, and how they land. I love dialogue and capturing the specific voice and speech pattern of every character.
TAEM- You have also performed in many commercials as well. Please tell us of some of the sponsors whose ads you were in.
LG- My first spot was for Odor Eaters. I played a college student. And that night I had my first performance of Grease on Bway when I took over the role of Frenchy. It was an exciting day. I loved doing commercials, and did bunches for products like Maxwell House Coffee, Scope, Burger King, Red Lobster, TJ Max, AT&T, Arby’s, Kleenex. Also did a lot of radio and voice over too.
TAEM- Tell us about your debut novel ‘You Have To Kiss A Lot Of Frogs’, and the theme behind it.
LG- I began writing when I was acting as a hobby. I took a class at NYU School of Continuing Ed called Writing From Your Personal Experience, and found a ‘voice” in telling short stories, mainly about bad dates. I called them my “personal pieces” and kept churning them out. People liked them, so I worked on a novel. But it didn’t work. Ultimately I put the stories together with chunks of the novel to tell a story about the process of dating without a conclusive ending. Because life doesn’t always work that way, and even when it does it always changes. I liked that idea of a woman kissing a lot of frogs, allegedly to find a prince. But also just because she liked to kiss!
TAEM- How would you classify this work and who is the main protagonist in it?
LG- Frogs is a novel-in-stories that spans fifteen years in the life of Jewish single actress Karrie Kline in NY and LA. It is women’s fiction, at the time it came out it was marketed as chick-lit, and the main protagonist, Karrie, is an alter ego of sorts to me.
LG- Looking for Mr. Goodfrog finds Karrie a few years after Frogs ends. She is in her mid-40s, dating is not as funny or as whimsical. There are less chance meets because of the Internet, she dates online, is a little disillusioned. It’s a different book approaching a different phase of life. Sometimes I pick it up and find when I read and get very caught up in it. Shiksa Syndrome is a story in Frogs. But I pulled it and created a new character, Aimee Albert, a NYC publicist, and made a stand-alone novel published by Random House called The Shiksa Syndrome. It is the same premise as that original story – Jewish girl pretends to be a shiksa (non Jewish girl) to attract a Jewish man. But it is a different animal.
TAEM- We also learned that ‘Looking for Mr. Goodfrog’ is an internationally acclaimed documentary. Please tell us all about this venue for it.
LG- Looking for Mr. Goodfrog was not turned into a documentary. Here is what happened. A Dutch filmmaker, Dree Andrea, picked up Frogs in a Ft Lauderdale airport bookstore when it first came out, 2004, and contacted me to be interviewed for a documentary she was working on called Mr. Right about being single in Manhattan. After we met she made me one of three main women whose lives were followed in the film. It was a great experience working with her, and she turned out a great film.
TAEM- Tell us about some of the other works that you have written.
LG- I contributed to several anthologies: It’s A Wonderful Lie, Scenes from a Holiday. I love that story in Holiday. It’s called The Eight Dates of Hanukkah about an events planner who gets hit in the head with a menorah and winds up in a Hannu-coma. The Upper West Side becomes Menorahville, and the only way out is to get married but it’s like a Ground Hog’s Day and the same people keep recycling through each other and she can’t get out.
TAEM- It was discovered that you also wrote a number of one-act plays. Can you tell us about these?
LG- Yes. They are Charlie & Flo, Love in the Time of Recession, and Telephone Call for Francine Stein, the plays have been produced at the WorkShop Theater Company where I am a member. Charlie & Flo also received at PS NBC production, and two monologues have been published in The Best Men’s Stage Monologues of 1999. I also have a monologue published in New Monologues for Women by Women ll.
TAEM- What other works are on the ‘drawing board’ for our readers to look for, and what other venues for your career are you planning?
LG- You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs will be reissued in December 2012, and I’m very excited about that. Last December I sadly lost my most precious and beloved Maltese, Charlie, who is a character in both Frog books. So I’ve been working on different projects, non-fiction and musical theater, about losing a pet.
TAEM- Laurie, it is always good to meet a talented person from my own home town. So many great actors and writers come from there and it is truly a fountain of talent that lets the East Coast compete with the best of Hollywood. We want to thank you for the time in sharing your story, and experiences, with the many readers of The Arts and Entertainment Magazine, and wish you much luck in all that you do.