Artist Spotlight: A Sit-Down with Siobhan O'Loughlin

Charm City Fringe Fest participant and winner of “Best of Fringe 2013” Siobhan O'Loughlin (Natural Novice) recently sat down with Fringe PR Director Alex Ward to discuss all matters theatre. So what if the interview was conducted online? I’m sure they were both sitting down, maybe drinking some tea? We may never know, but here’s the interview for your reading pleasure.

A - What first drew you into theatre and performing arts?

S - I had amazing parents, honestly, who put me in piano lessons when I was very young. I am a person who is

A. basically not good at anything without a TON of practice; and

B. terrible at math, so piano was incredibly difficult for me.

They encouraged me to continue, and I think it was ultimately just for my personal growth and understanding of music and expression. However, I also had an incredible piano teacher, who believed in me in lots of ways. I learned to play songs I loved, songs I could sing along with, and my performance began to blossom musically first.

A - When writing your performances, what inspires you?

S - A combination of social movements and human power. I've met and seen so many artists and activists whose work completely motivates me to continue to create. Solo performers like Seth Lepore, Al Letson, and Monica Hunken. The activists I work with in the National Organization for Women, Occupy Wall Street, and the Jokers of Theatre of the Oppressed, NYC. These peoples' passion for creative work and their devotion to social justice--that's my drive.

A - What do you enjoy most about doing live theatre?

S - It's an adventure. Every night is different and it only happens once in that room with those specific people. Live theatre lets us live in the present moment--lets us feel things in a room with other people present; gives us a shared experience.

 O'Loughlin performing "Natural Novice" in the 2013 Charm CIty Fringe Festival.

O'Loughlin performing "Natural Novice" in the 2013 Charm CIty Fringe Festival.

A - We were lucky enough to host your show "Natural Novice" last year, which deals heavily with female empowerment over issues of body-image. What other works have you done supporting feminist causes, and how can others show their support?

S - "Natural Novice" is my first full-fledged feminist play. My other solo show, "The Rope in Your Hands", has more of a racial-justice theme.

I do need support with this play, however.* Performing it here in NYC at the Planet Connections Theatre Festival I was reviewed as "repulsive" and a "hairy ape" by the TV show Hi! Drama. They [reviewed my appearance] without looking into the content of the play.

A - Your performance in last year's festival was the winner of "Best of Fringe 2013." What was your favorite thing about the 2013 Charm City Fringe Festival?

S - My one favorite thing? As a touring artist, I have three general objectives with doing festivals: 

  1. To meet other artists and network
  2. To get reviews
  3. To feel the general vibe and artistic climate of the city

I got all three of those at this festival, which was a real triumph for me. I owe a lot of that to working with the festival organizers, who really had the best interest of the artists in mind. I appreciate that so much.

A - If you had to pick one, what was your favorite show at the 2013 Fringe Fest, aside from your own?

S - "The Sound of Smoke," of course!! I'm still obsessed with Nick Horan. His performance was dynamic, powerful, moving, hilarious, spell-binding, beautiful. I went with a group of friends to see him--we all knew we were going to dig it before the show even started. Please, everyone, Google him, stalk him, go to all of his performances. You will thank me.

A - How was your experience in Baltimore?

S - It was just lovely. As a New Yorker, I cannot tell you how hard it is to accomplish things in the city where I live. Feeling like you have the resources, the support, the audience--let's be real. Sometimes NYC does not care that you have a play. Sometimes the festival staff you are working for does not care.

When I arrived in Baltimore, Mike and Zach [the founders of CCF] asked me if I needed a ride to the theatre to do my tech. [They were] available during my ENTIRE tech. The boys even made sure that vegan cupcakes and pizza were available at one of the opening night parties. Because of me. I was just beside myself--that kind of stuff does not happen in NYC.

A - Arts and culture are on the rise in Baltimore, was this evident to you while you were in the city?

S - I'm not sure if you know this, Alex, but I'm no stranger to Baltimore. As a native Marylander, born and raised on the Eastern Shore in Salisbury, I went to undergrad at Towson University, and I'm so proud to see so many Towson students doing amazing work in Baltimore. Glass Mind Theatre Co. and Stillpointe were both started by Towson alum, which is totally fantastic. What is especially great about having a Fringe though, in each and every city with an arts scene, is that it invites other artists from elsewhere to join in the fun. It provided me with a great opportunity to bring my new play to Baltimore--I don't know how I'd have done that otherwise.

A - The next CCF fest is fast approaching, what would you tell the potential artists and audiences about the festival?

S - Artists: Enjoy this opportunity to network and share!! Go to the parties Fringe Staff plans. They are awesome and important. And go see each other’s work! Shake hands with an artist you don't know. Tell them who you are and invite them to come see you. And then you go see them. And utilize the wondrous resources that are Michael, Zach and Alex. They are really there for you.

Audiences: GO TO THE FRINGE. Go to it. Eat a Berger cookie and just get to the box office and buy tickets to at least three shows. It is good for you. Go to something you don't know anyone in. Go to a solo play and sit in the front row. Try it. Bring a friend so if you hate it you can laugh together. And if you love it, you can celebrate together with some Natty Boh or whatever the hell it is you guys drink over there.

A - Would you do it again?

S - Oh you bet. I can't wait to. My next play is a personal vulnerability log across the globe, called "The Coolest Places to Cry." It will be coming to you. Also in the works is my first collaborative/devised piece in a long time, with my half Australian/half American theatre company, Everything is Everywhere.

We are developing our new project (including another Baltimore native, Ira Gamerman) in Manila, The Philippines, next Spring. Look for it. I miss you all. Can't wait to be back, and thanks again for having me as part of your fest, and honoring me with my first award for this show. 

*To show your support for Siobhan and her cause, you can help by spreading the word about her show, "The Rope in Your Hands," celebrating the agency we all have over our bodies. "Like" her on Facebook and share her Tumblr page, which contains her photo-response to the review for her recent play, as well as the specific dates/times for her current tour of "Natural Novice."