BWW Interview: CODEPENDENTs Journey to Fringe of Friendship and Sisterhood with Kelly Hubbell
Two-hundred-twenty-seven miles separate New York City from the nation's capital, a distance actress and DC-area native Kelly Hubbell knows all too well. When she opens in Codependent at the Capital Fringe Festival this Thursday, the journey for both the play and Hubbell will not be marked merely by miles, but by friendships, family, and sisterhood.
"Codependent is a two-woman play, about a pair of millennials trying to grow up and move on. This happens over the course of 24 hours while these two best friends pack up their apartment of 8 years, sifting through memories and unpacking some underlying insecurities. Allie, who I play, is moving in with her boyfriend and Mia, is struggling to come out to her Mom. It's a play about friendship, female friendships to be specific, and how wonderful and wonderfully complicated they can be," says Hubbell.
The play, coincidentally enough, was written by two of Hubbell's friends and former roommates Julia Karis and Emily Rekstis, and is loosely based on their friendship.
"You always hear the saying 'blood is thicker than water,' but sometimes your friendships are just as important as your own family," says Hubbell. "The play really looks at the importance of that dynamic, the bond that develops between friends, especially between women, and celebrates that. In the case of Mia and Allie, they depend on each other as their lives change around them, and maybe too much so, hence the title."
While adapting a real life story, especially a personal one, to the stage can be challenging, Hubbell has the added dimension of having to play a real person. Now, it is not uncommon for actors to play real people, living or dead. See Eva Peron in Evita, Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton, or even Hillary Clinton in the recent Broadway play Hillary and Clinton. But when the character you're playing is not only alive, but one of your best friends, it begs asking the question, 'Where do you start?'
"Playing Emily has been a fun thing to navigate. I did not want to do an impersonation, because the play is homage to her and Julia's story and that's what I wanted to focus on. I definitely took some of her mannerisms, but that's really it," says Hubbell.
After several readings in New York City, Codependent will make its world premiere at the Capital Fringe Festival on Thursday for a five-performance run. In the lead up to Fringe, the actors continue to gather in Karis' apartment, rehearsing the play and refining its humor. The real test will come at Fringe though, when it is finally performed on stage.
While starring in a play written by your friends, about your friends, at the Capital Fringe Festival is very special, this production has an added element, which makes it truly unique - both the production and creative teams are all female.
"We wanted this play to be a part of our times, and the conversations people are having," says Hubbell. "I cannot tell you how empowering this whole experience has been. Between our Director Elizabeth Callahan, and our Producer Alex Duncker, the whole process has been wonderfully open and collaborative. To feel and have this level of support is rare. "
Sure to be supporting Hubbell on opening night is her family. A native of Herndon, Virginia, Hubbell splits her time between New York City and Washington. In fact, Codependent, in many ways became a family affair.
"Yes, my dad made the couch, which is the central set piece, and he's very proud of his design," Hubbell says laughing. "The couch breaks down into thirds, which is ideal for Fringe because you have 15 minutes to unload, set up, and breakdown before the next production is set to begin. The other nice thing is that since the couch can be broken down and transported, we can use it for future productions."
As for post-Fringe plans, Hubbell says the creative team will continue working on Codependent with plans for a fully staged production in New York. Personally and professionally, she'd like to spend more time in Washington.
"Look, while performing in New York venues like Playwright Horizons or Circle in the Square will always be a dream of mine, I truly love the DC theatre scene," says Hubbell. "I love the diversity and the originality companies like Arena Stage, Signature Theatre, and Studio Theatre are bringing to the stage. So I hope to be able to do more down here, but for right now, it's all about Fringe."
Codependent opens at the Capital Area Fringe Festival on Thursday, July 11 at Dove - Saint Augustine's Episcopal Church - 555 Water Street SW, Washington, DC 20024. To learn more about Codependent, please visit the play's website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
For tickets and a performance schedule please click here.
Photo: Kelly Hubbell and Julia Karis. Credit: John Alati.