The 'US' of Alanna: Patriotic Bitch!
Alanna Ubach may be celebrated as a film actress with a distinctive comic flair and energy, but she began and would still be happy to be thought of as a stage actress, one with something funny, and important to say. A daughter of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, she embodies the energy and culture of the modern Latin experience. Her unique comic spirit and passionate beauty has rewarded her with roles in the movies and on television, yet it's the stage where it really comes to life. And life is what she is celebrating as she takes a moment away from her successful film career to bring herself, her colorful array of characters and her critically acclaimed one woman show (actually MANY women show), PATRIOTIC BITCH to the Clurman Theatre. She took a break from rehearsal to give us at BroadwayWorld.com a little peek at what's in store for audiences
Eddie Varley: Hey, how are you doing, welcome back!
Eddie Varley: Hey, how are you doing, welcome back!
Alanna Ubach: I'm doing alright, I'm good, staying at the
EV: I think the usual, Ray's Pizza, a Subway sandwich, and probably if you're not careful you!
AU: I think I have a couple toes missing, but I'm ok, I can still do the show... (Laughs).
EV: I'm so excited that you've brought Patriotic Bitch to
AU: It's really so exciting to be here doing it, to be back,
I did theater here years back when I was a kid. But I'm such a Latin, and my
whole family is in
EV: You do have to know your stuff; you have to have a strong idea of who you are and what you want and of course in terms of performing, a strong idea or concept, which your show really does have.
AU: Absolutely you need that, regarding the show, for one thing it certainly does talk about
all the crazy people in
EV: (Laughs) Exactly, I was going to say that!
AU: They are people that you might normally stereotype, and yes I make fun of them, and try to make them as ridiculous as possible, but then you start to get to know them and think how "Gosh, you know that woman I totally ignored in the public rest room , she actually has a life and is important". It's interesting I was talking to a friend of mine Danny Strong who wrote Recount that was just on HBO, and he was going to write a forward in the Playbill for my show, and we were talking about how easy it is to feel like a person as a digit in America, even though this is the land of multiculturalism and opportunities for immigrants in so many ways, but at the end of the day, a lot of people feel like "digits", and it's tough to feel that way.
EV: It's out there everyday that feeling, especially with the current political climate, it's so true about feeling like a "digit", there is the feeling that whatever you might do doesn't matter, your voice isn't heard. This is why your play has such honest and emotional life as you are making those voices heard through the journey of the characters.
AU: About fives years ago I had an idea, I've always had these characters you know, I would do them for my family and you know, they'd get a laugh. We are just this very funny, loud and abrasive Latin family, they all though it was so funny and my mother said to me, "How about if you make all these people know each other", and my mom, she's so smart and self taught and just a little book worm. And I thought it would be really neat to commit to these people in a way, so that was the first cue and the challenge to take these people that I also made people laugh with, you know to build some kind of show with it. But at first it could have been too cartoony, and I though, eh, there has to be a way to take them more serious than just have them be these superficial, sort of SNL type characters.
EV: So those early performances of it a few years back you
were shaping and building it.
AU: Yes, it was you know, it was very funny and fast and loud, and full of schmaltzy humor, and Roger Guinevere Smith, who is an amazing actor, he's done a number of one man shows, and he came to see the show, he approached me afterward and said, he kind of woke me up, he said, "Wow you really flew through that!". And I answered, "Well the audience SUCKED!" He then was like, "Wow, you really do care about and defend what you do", and I said "Abso-F'in-lutley!", and he said, "Then you have to take yourself seriously, because from the moment you do that, you create these characters a very real and strong storyline, because are these characters important to you?" My answer was 'Of course, they're my kids" and he said, "Then take your kids seriously."
EV: And that started you on the road you are on now
AU: So it took me about four and a half to five years to
really get it ready for an audience. Too make it deeper, the give it what it
deserves, so it was a challenge to get these characters to a little place where
it means something. I thought, this play needs a narrator, and so I was at the
Abbey, it's a gay club in LA, with some friends of mine, and I had a couple of
beers and I went to the women's restroom, and there was this woman waiting
there, she was the bathroom attendant. And um, we struck up a conversation and
she was just a sweetheart, and I looked at her and said, "You look like Frida
Kahlo", and she was this tiny little thing, no bigger than a minute, with this
gorgeous unibrow and very big hair, and she didn't know what I was talking
about! She barely spoke English, but a couple months later I enrolled in a UCLA
extension American poetry class
and she was in it!
AU: And she turned around, she looked at me and she said,
"Freeda Kaloow!" And I was like, Oh my God, I was like, wow, you see. And you know
this woman had like a photographic memory, and she was applying here in this class,
and bettering herself. She's a bathroom attendant in a gay nightclub in
EV: Especially in a place that's spread out like
AU: Absolutely, I was like, Aha, so I thought, she's my
lead. And my mother is from
EV: And the title of the show, Patriotic Bitch, really
speaks to that, it's got such wonderful meaning on so many levels.
AU: It's true, all these women are on the edge, and they are pieces of me, they are ranting and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, because they don't connect with anyone and are wrapped up in they're own little worlds. I think in many ways that's very representative of LA, because it's about a bunch of people who, you know they want things that are out of their reach. It's hard to just basically just be yourself.
EV: That's an emotion that I think is informing everyone right now. About your career, while you've had such success on film, I think of you as a creature of the theatre, you are such a passionate performer, so being back on stage and bringing these characters to life and giving them such a voice must be a thrill.
AU: Oh, I need it, it's so much more rewarding than anything I've ever done on television or whatever, and I've worked with some really wonderful people. But at the end of the day it's very much, you know I came from the theater, but all my family were all Mexicans in Los Angeles, so my family has been what's kept me from New York and only doing theater. My father passed on when I was 19, and in a Latin family, basically it's almost impossible to leave your family after that. So I worked out there, but you know, I thought that now that I'm thirty two, I thought I better get off my ass and do what I wanna do! You know so many of the characters I've gotten, the parts I've gotten have been like, in bulk, like, 'the friend of the lead', the 'friend of the friend of the lead', you know I thought this is ridiculous, I'm gonna end up like a statistic, like on the news, and they'll be like "The girl who played the lesbian in The Brady Bunch Movie", you know, so I thought I have to do something!
EV: (Laughs) You want to create something that you can have control over for your legacy! But still everything you've done has lead you to this, your entire experience as an actress and a person has brought you to this, even thought it's a different medium you learn to create those characters, to make them real and affect the audience. Watching people on a film set, even though you are doing your work is such a learning experience too.
AU: It's amazing, I did Meet The Fockers, and watching Dustin Hoffman and Robert DeNiro, you know DeNiro did nothing but film and Dustin Hoffman, from the theater mindset, tries to get it right on the first take and he gets almost kind of insulted if they are like "let's try the fourth take", he's like "What?! I thought it was great the first take!" So with Robert DeNiro, he'll take those nine takes, but at the end of the day it's totally different, he's from film and he knows he doesn't have to get it perfect the first time, but that's ok, that's just the nature of the game, that's why it's film. It's a very different mindset.
EV: It's such a different medium isn't it? The small number
of times I've done something on film or television, I've always had to work
hard not to be such a stage animal, I'm like a printing press gone out of
control, like I'm in a silent film! To learn to relax and just be real and
yourself is a struggle.
AU: And it's really hard to do that, at the end of the day I really, almost feel lazy if I'm just being myself, I'm not being big, I'm not working!
EV: It's like, "Sing out, Louise!"
AU: Exactly, you know, the whole acting world it's so wild, my sister just rolls her eyes and is like, "I don't know why you do this, it's such a wild business."
EV: It is tough to explain, but there is nothing like walking out on a stage, and those lights dim and it is just you and the audience and the characters that you are about to bring to life, it's an unbelievable thing to touch an audience.
AU: Oh sure, it's you know one thing, you know you bought the ticket, you're not gonna change the channel. You're basically there to meet a bunch of strangers, and hopefully they'll affect you. And if you ever meet anyone similar to them that you would have maybe ignored in the past, you may give them your time, that's the biggest reason I wanted to do this, is you know hopefully you're affecting someone.
EV: Thanks for bringing these characters to
AU: Thank you Eddie, this was so much fun.
EV: And watch out for those
AU: (Laughs) He's in my underwear now!
EV: (Laughs) Uh oh, call for security! Take care!
AU: (Laughs) You too! Bye.
PATRIOTIC BITCH , a one-woman show written by and starring Alanna Ubach, will open off-Broadway at the Clurman Theatre , 410 West 42nd Street (Theatre Row) on Thursday, June5th. Previews began on Thursday, May 29th.
Presented by Rob Kolson and Chu-Chu Pictures, Inc, PATRIOTIC BITCH is directed by Ian Mccrudden with scenic design by Steve Shelley, lighting design by Alexander Lyle and costumes by Alanna Ubach.
Alanna's many film roles have included: "Still
Waiting", "Meet the Fockers", "Legally Blonde"
"Red White & Blonde" ("Legally Blonde 2), ""Clock
Watchers", "Herbie: Fully Loaded" and "Airborne". One
of her first roles in a feature film was that of lesbian Noreen in the film The
Brady Bunch Movie. On television she has been seen in recurring roles in
"CSI: NY", "The Huntress", "Eli Stone",
"Party of Five" and "Beakman's World".Stage roles have included "The Vagina
Monologues", "Kindertransport" (MTC) and "Club Soda".
Press notes describe her show as "a funny misfit finds where
she belongs in this irreverent one-woman show in which Alanna Ubach portrays
several women from different societies, countries and walks of life and their
frustrations about how hard it is to catch a break in this world. They are all
introduced by Yolanda Rodriguez, a humble Mexican bathroom attendant trying to
Tickets for PATRIOTIC BITCH are available at Ticket Central.com at (212) 279-4200. All tickets are $45.00.