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Meet Shellen Lubin!
Shellen was most recently seen as Luanne in the web series High Falls, as The Flood in The Vagina Monologues at Here Arts Center, and performing her poetry in the last Made in the Berkshires Festival. As a singer/songwriter, she was featured in Milos Forman’s Taking Off, in numerous cabaret acts and one-woman shows over the years, and on WBAI-FM. Shellen also works professionally as a Director, Playwright, and Vocal/Acting Coach. Her reflections on life as an artist--and living with artistry--have been featured in five philosophical cover pieces for Back Stage Publications and are read weekly in her Monday Morning Quotes (www.mondaymorningquotes.com). You can find Shellen on Twitter at @SHLubin and online at www.shellenlubin.com
Tell us about your experience(s) reading for the Bechdel Group.
I have read for the Bechdel Group twice, and both were fabulous experiences. The first play I read, Denial is Not a River in Egypt by Deborah Magid, is such a great two-woman character study, we're trying to figure out how to make a production happen as we speak. The second time was a wild ride--playing two small roles in Brenda Foley's play (whose lovely writing I have directed in the past), and then, last minute, being thrown into a very uncharacteristic role for me in Marcus Scott's beautifully challenging work with a group of actors who really took it to the max, and we all transported together to another place. I love how unfettered and chance-taking all the actors are. (Although sometimes I wish we could read a little bit more of the plays!)
When in your acting career/work did you become aware of the Bechdel test and how has it changed or informed your work?
I became aware of the test probably in the early 2000s. In some ways, it has always been what my work has been about (which is one of the reasons I write and direct more and act less--I'm more in a position to challenge precepts and effect change). At the same time, a number of my plays
and plays I've directed are about deconstructing romantic love and/or about exposing flaws in accepted/white/male stories and perspectives, and so a number of them do NOT pass the Bechdel Test! So it has certainly made me more aware of that as well.
As you know, the Bechdel Group’s monthly readings are not rehearsed – and while they are put together for playwrights to hear their work in development – what do you like about this kind of format and what do you, as an actor, get from it?
I love actors throwing themselves into a character, into the text, and flying by the seat of their pants. For those who are open to that, it's a beautiful experience to both share and watch. And it definitely can reveal aspects and layers of the play that might not be revealed in more studied rehearsal. Always an adventure.
Have you ever been cast outside of what you consider to be your marketable “type” at a Bechdel reading? How was that for you?
That night of the Marcus Scott play, I played an aging Barbie doll type--not my usual bent at all. Had a great time playing her, and was definitely affected deeply as her (and as myself feeling her limitations) by the family arguments I witnessed as well as the ones I was a part of.
Playwrights always appreciate the feedback they get from the actors at our readings. What would the perfect collaboration on a play’s development look like from your perspective as an actor?
It's tricky for a playwright to hear too much feedback in the moment--I like how specific the questions are that Bechdel asks, to try and keep the conversation guided and offering perspectives instead of telling the playwright what to do. I think the most positive feedback an actor can offer a playwright is how it felt to be in that character--how moments and objectives evolved or didn't--what questions and contradictions presented themselves, and which ones you were looking for later scenes to complete (or at least reflect), and which felt unresolvable or unattainable.
The Bechdel Group
Working to challenge the portrayal of women in film and on stage.