BWW Interview: At Home With Lena Moy-Borgen
Lena Moy-Borgen is a busy lady today. Actually, she is busy every day. This mother of two, founder of a teaching institution, teacher within that institution, sometime solo performer, someone duo performer, sometime emcee, and full-time wife, creator, writer, and empowered woman is never not moving. That's part of her success in life and in her work. Lena Moy-Borgen is a force, and she is a force for good. She educates and she entertains. She always brings a smile. She's the real deal, and she even took time out of her hectic day to share a little chat with me, and though time is something that many have in abundance, not many of us have kids to raise and to teach. So what does tonight's two-time MAC nominee have to say these days? Read on, McDuff...
Name: Lena Moy-Borgen
First Cabaret Show (Title, Year, Club): LenaLenaLena! The Triad, 2013
Most Recent Cabaret Show: Glam Girl in a Grunge World, Don't Tell Mama, 2019
Website or Social Media Handles: Instagram @helenaborgen and I have FB
pages for Lena Moy-Borgen - Performer and Moy-Borgen and Bourne's
Office Party. I need a website!
Lena, it's the day of the MAC Awards and you are a nominee in two
different categories, so congratulations and good luck tonight!
Thank you so much! I'm really excited, even though I don't get to wear
my gold sequins (and no, I'm not putting it on to wear at home - I
have two kids. Very impractical.)
How are things at your house, with little 'uns to keep you busy?
We're hanging in here! I have two kids, a 4-year-old and a 3-month-old, so that's keeping me busy. My husband is also working from home,
so I'm not outnumbered.
And I think you are also doing some online teaching right now, aren't you?
Yes! My company, Play On! Studios (a drama studio for kids on the
UWS), has moved our semester online for our current students. I'm
teaching Musical Theater Performance and Creative Drama, and there's a
Theater Lab class going on as well that I'm not teaching.
Tell me about Play On! Studios - how did you create this wonderful organization?
Play On! Studios is a theater enrichment studio on the Upper West Side
of Manhattan. We offer after school and Saturday classes, along with
summer camp and holiday break camps. We also go into schools and teach
either during the school day or as part of an after school program.
You can see more about it at playonstudios.com.
I founded Play On! Studios in 2011, along with Elisa Winter. The two
of us were teaching at a summer camp here in the city, in the musical
theater department, and we had a great following of students. We
thought that maybe they would want to join us for some after school
classes, and it turned out that they did! We broke off from the camp
and formed Play On! Studios the following summer. That first summer,
we had just 1 program and 7 kids. We've grown so much over the years -
this past summer we had 15 different programs and over 200 kids, which
was so amazing.
How is Play On! doing during the Physical Distancing period?
We're figuring it out. It's really challenging to do drama online - so
much of our classes is interacting with each other and physical
movement and group activities - it doesn't really translate seamlessly
to Zoom. But I have an amazing group of teachers who have been working
so hard to keep classes going. Unfortunately, we've had to cancel some
of our spring break programming, and we had a school group who had
been rehearsing a musical since September that was canceled two days
before opening night. My heart just broke for those kids - they had
worked so hard, and they never got to perform in front of an audience.
When you're not focusing on your teaching, how do you spend your time at home?
My time at home is mostly focused on my kids. I'm so thankful that
they're not old enough for school right now. I don't have to worry
about teaching them math or science, we can just bake cookies and read
books and play. My older son is really into musicals right now (I
wonder where he gets that from?), so we spend a lot of the day playing
The Lion King or Annie on Spotify and just singing along. Once they go
down for a nap, I frantically try to catch up on all my work emails
and maintenance. Luckily, I have the best assistant director in the
world - her name is Emily Viega and I couldn't run Play On! Studios
without her. She takes on a huge chunk of the daily admin, and she
helps me smooth over the cracks that come with being a business owner
and a mom at the same time.
How did you and Cheo Bourne come to invent "Office Party" and what
would you tell people about it if they had never seen it and needed to
get a feel for it?
Cheo and I had been wanting to do a duo show for a while. We met doing
Mama's Next Big Act in 2016 - we were both in the final five, so we
spent a huge chunk of the summer together, just hanging out at the bar
once we had finished singing, waiting until the end of the night so
that we could thank our friends for coming. He did a guest spot in one
of my solo shows (LenaLenaLena: The Awards Show) and we had so much
fun working together and wanted to do a new show, but we didn't really
know what it should be. His husband, who is an amazing playwright,
actually came up with the idea - he said since we both had worked in
offices, we should do this "office party" and we could build a whole
world of the office and just have a lot of fun with it. We decided to
run with it, and we've had the best time. We've done 8 different
Office Parties in the last two years now, all totally new shows each
time, except for our original theme song (lyrics by the two of us,
music by Katy Pfaffl) which always is the same. If you've never seen
it, you should come check it out! It's got everything - comedy, great
songs, amazing guest stars, trivia, and free cake! It's like if an old
fashioned variety show took place at an office party. It's a ton of
Glam Girl in a Grunge World was an incredible work of art - how much
time goes into the creation of one of your solo shows?
Thank you so much! It's hard to say exactly, they've all been really
different. The only thing that remains the same is that I have to book
dates for the show first, and then I get started writing. I need the
pressure of a deadline or there's just too much other stuff competing
for space in my brain. I usually book a few months out and then put a
piece or two together every week until I have a first draft. Katy
Pfaffl, my music director who I do all my shows with, and I are always
putting things in and taking them out and rewriting them. I do a lot
of rewriting at the last minute. We threw out a whole section of Glam
Girl three days before the first performance and subbed in a brand
new piece (which became the section on Sunset Blvd). Katy is a musical
genius - she makes everything work for me, no matter how crazy it is.
She made Sweeney Todd fit in musically with the Barenaked Ladies. I
don't know how she does it!
Glam Girl was actually the first show we ever did together where we
didn't throw anything out after the first performance. Usually, we
continue to change things after we see what works in front of an
audience, but after the first night of Glam Girl, we just said
"Huh.....this all works. I guess let's keep doing it!"
What's your surefire way to keep the kids occupied during a voluntary
Disney Plus started existing at the exact right time, so that always
works. We also just discovered Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube, which is
great - my older son follows along and moves all around. He can also
FaceTime with the grandparents for ages - I just set it up on the iPad
and do the dishes or whatever needs to happen, and I come back and
they're still chatting away. My mom started reading him Black Beauty
on FaceTime and they do a new chapter each day. It's super adorable.
And what's the best way to get your grown-up mind back after they go
to bed at night?
My husband and I like to eat ice cream and watch television shows -
we're too tired for movies and we can never agree on one anyways.
Right now, we're very into Derry Girls on Netflix. It's a show about
high school girls in the 1990s in Northern Ireland during "the
troubles," which doesn't sound funny but it totally is. We were both
in high school in the '90's so we have the added fun of feeling super
nostalgic about all the clothes and music. I'm going to be so sad when
it's over - it's hilarious and I don't want it to end.
What's your favorite song to sing to your kids?
My older son only wants us to sing him the exact same thing every
night. My husband sings that Bob Segar song "Turn the Page" and I sing
"Goodnight My Someone" and "Once Upon a Dream." My younger son doesn't
care what we do yet, but lately, I find myself singing "New Music" from
Ragtime over and over. It's been stuck in my head ever since the
Encore! season finale (which is the best show on Disney Plus - watch
Lena, thanks for doing this digital chat with me, I really enjoyed being a part of your MAC Monday.
Thank you so much for interviewing me! I really enjoyed it. I hope you
stay safe out there (inside your own apartment).
Photos provided by Lena Moy-Borgen except the top photo, shot by Stephen Mosher