BWW Interviews: I LOVE LUCY's Sirena Irwin Answers Our Silly Query
Orange County audiences will soon experience a kind of déjà vu---the hilarious kind---when I LOVE LUCY® LIVE ON STAGE begins its week-long engagement at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts from March 18-23. The live theatrical adaptation---as the title may have already hinted---takes two episodes from one of the most popular television sitcoms of all time and stages them... live!
Front and center in the role of Lucy Ricardo is actress Sirena Irwin (in the role, of course, made memorable on TV by the iconic Lucille Ball). Irwin returns to play the part in the national tour company that she originated in the world premiere production at the Greenway Court Theatre in Los Angeles followed by a Chicago production.
Before Irwin and her LUCY cohorts arrived for a week of hilarity in Costa Mesa, she agreed to answer a few of our "silly" questions...
Subject: Sirena Irwin
Hometown: "At the risk of sounding McConaughey-esque, Home is within. It sounds trite, but I say that because I moved around a lot as a kid and I found that was helpful in feeling comfortable in continually changing landscapes. Feeling at home or 'in my hometown' just by 'being' gave me the freedom and safety to have fun and explore new worlds and adventures."
BWW: Howdy, Sirena! First question... You play Lucy Ricardo, one of the most iconic characters in pop culture history. How do you approach the character to make sure it retains the spirit of what Lucille Ball memorably created, yet still make it entirely your own?
It's a balancing act---and I was cast because I have excellent balance. You should see me on a tight rope! (Next show...??) But really, Lucille Ball beautifully created the character of Lucy Ricardo that now lives in so many hearts. I wanted to honor that creation by bringing truth, honesty, humor, joy, love and bravery into the mix. All things that I think characterize Lucille AND Lucy!
If you had a chance to talk with Ms. Ball herself, what would you ask her in regards to playing Lucy?
Lucille, you incredible human, how did you do what you did in a week's time?! What was your process?! And, how did you keep your nails looking so good through it all?!
Ha ha! Fun! Tell me... Is comedy something one can hone and study or is it something one is just naturally born with?
I believe those that are born with it are given a special birth certificate that is stamped with the comedy seal of approval. My parents lost my birth certificate...which I think is pretty funny.
Which particular moment in the show cracks you up every time?
Hearing Joanna Daniels, who plays Ethel Mertz, say "It's French." You gotta see it to believe it! It's perfect!
Is it a challenge to try not to burst out laughing yourself while surrounded by all the shenanigans on stage?
All the actors around me are so fun and funny. We all do our best not to break---I've only burst out laughing once. A clown shoe got left on the set and when the lights came up I realized I was sitting on it. I had to sit there for a while and then when I got up it was revealed. I felt like a chicken who had been incubating an egg - but I had been incubating a clown shoe. Kind of appropriate for Lucy, I guess.
Funny! How has it been playing opposite Bill Mendieta, who plays Ricky to your Lucy?
Bill is a dream. Like Desi, he is a very skilled straight man and one of the most honest, grounded actors I've known.
Who were some of your idols growing up that influenced your love of comedy and the performing arts?
Richard Wagner, Mrs. Marucci (my piano teacher), Mr. Walczak (elementary school teacher/director), David Rowland (high school head of theater department), Ben Kingsley, Sarah Bernhardt, Tom Hulce, Ariane Mnouchkine, Cicely Tyson, Monty Python, William Shakespeare and the Marx Brothers... to name but a few.
Quite a list! Do you have any pre-show rituals that you do before a performance?
I do a push up for each half hour episode of [the original] "I Love Lucy"---179---and then I drink a bottle of Vitameatavegamin.
In one sentence, describe the inner monologue that goes through your head right before you step out on a stage?
Bill and I are usually doing some sort of connecting with each other---getting into husband/wife dynamic---the love---the camaraderie---the competition---we keep it fresh and do something different each show. So the monologue is on mute.
Personally, what do you feel are the most important rules for working in comedy... besides making the audience laugh, of course?
Ground it in truth and invest in it completely. The audience is a detective and they sniff out any hesitation or dishonesty. Also, as Lucy, you have to be willing to play the fool. Which I love!
Cool. Okay, time for some rapid-fire questions... What scares you the most?
Chainsaws, ignorance, and the vapid pursuit of wealth.
What is your guilty pleasure?
What do you like to do on your day(s) off?
Explore. Find and eat good local food. And listen to great local musicians of all sorts---classical, country, jazz, hipster-punk, hip hop... And, of course, I love to see local theater if they are running on Monday night which is VERY rare. Waaaaahhhh!
What irritates You the most?
Inequity, inequality, disrespect.
What instantly puts a smile on your face?
Seeing a couple make-out in public. And my son running toward me with the intent to "take me down to Chinatown!"
If you could trade lives with any one person for one day, who would that person be and why?
George Clooney. It'd be nice to see what it feels like to be King. And George, in my life, would be like what the shiznit happened?! Why am I sleeping next to this tall skinny man? Why is this child kneeing me in the nuts and what happened to my harem of hot babes?
Ha ha. Alright, if you weren't a performer, what other career do you see yourself doing?
Is hole digging considered a career? I really love digging holes in the high heat of summer. No joke. What could that possibly say about me?
Any advice for our young readers who want to get into "the biz?"
If you love it, do it. Do. Do. Do. Now I sound like my four-year-old son. I'm just a poopy mom, what can I say?
And lastly, what has been your absolute favorite moment of the I LOVE LUCY® experience so far?
This is a really tough question to answer. There have been so many magical things that have surrounded this show. All of the people that have come out that were involved with the show and/or Lucille and Desi and Bill and Vivian---have been so kind---so supportive---so generous and it is THEIR support and encouragement that has helped me along this journey. And, of course, also the appreciation and support from our awesome audiences! And it was a very special treat to visit Lucille's childhood home in Celeron, New York.
ALSO, in closing I must admit, one of my favorite experiences has been at the end of each show---when I come down for my bow---I take in all the other actors on the stage---each of them so talented---so generous---so kind---and I feel proud to be amongst them.
Awesome! Thanks for playing along, Sirena!
Follow Contributing Editor Michael L. Quintos on Twitter: @cre8iveMLQ
Photo of Sirena Irwin as Lucy by Jeremy Daniel, courtesy of SCFTA.
Performances of I LOVE LUCY® LIVE ON STAGE at Segerstrom Center for the Arts continue through Sunday, March 23, 2014. Tickets can be purchased online at www.SCFTA.org, by phone at 714-556-2787 or in person at the SCFTA box office (open daily at 10 am). Segerstrom Center for the Arts is located at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa.
For tickets or more information, visit SCFTA.org or www.ILoveLucyLive.com.