Q&A with Lauren O’Brien, ‘Lolo’s Boyfriend Show’ Writer and Performer

The New York City Fringe Festival is back, and with it comes a variety of original, creative theatrical works that really test boundaries. And the coolest part is that the artists actually get to keep 100% of their box office earnings! So far, I have been lucky enough to see a couple of Fringe shows this year, “Conversations with My Divorce Attorney” and “FASTER,” both of which were running at the Theater at the 14th Street Y. When I heard about “Lolo’s Boyfriend Show,” playing at the same theatre, I knew I was interested. The premise alone of the character of Lolo exploring past relationships on stage was very compelling to me. So prior to seeing the show for myself, I reached out to Lauren O’Brien, the show’s writer and performer, directly. My Q&A with Lauren O’Brien reveals all about the inception of “Lolo’s Boyfriend Show,” what she hopes audiences take away from the experience, and more!

Q&A with Lauren O'BrienCan you tell us about the inspiration behind “Lolo’s Boyfriend” and what audiences can expect from the show?

Lolo’s Boyfriend Show is inspired by dating in New York! It’s a lot of fun, but it isn’t afraid to go to some dark places.

It’s kind of like Reese Witherspoon meets Euphoria!

Here is a mini synopsis of the show:

Lolo lands a dream-come-true European tour with her punk cabaret show. But when it gets canceled after just a few weeks, she’s forced to pack up her red platform boots and move back to her mom’s house in suburbia. Lolo’s Psychic Therapist told her she’d be famous and happily married by now. Instead, she’s stuck in her childhood bedroom, taking a wild and traumatic trip through her boyfriends-past. From The Yogi to The Phantom Texter to The S&M Enthusiast, Lolo’s penchant for attracting the bizarre really cuts her up. As she grapples with her ghosts – and considers abandoning everything for a British Beau – Lolo has a radical realization: maybe…just maybe…she has a different path to happiness in this world…

What themes or messages do you hope the audience will take away from your performance?

I love that question! It is my wish for audiences to see Lolo “change poison into medicine” and be empowered to do that in their own lives. I practice Buddhism, specifically the Lotus Sutra. There is a big emphasis on humanity’s ability to “change poison into medicine.” The beautiful lotus flower only blossoms in a muddy swamp. In the same way, our lives have the ability to blossom serenely, even amid challenging circumstances. Everything can become nourishment for our creativity and our ultimate happiness!

There is also a concept in Buddhism called “esho funi,” which loosely translates into “the oneness of life and its environment.” It basically means that, while it seems that everything from the skin out is separate from us, the environment is actually an extension and reflection of our inner life. Solo shows embody this concept! Everything is an extension of the protagonist. In Lolo’s Boyfriend Show, we see how Lolo’s environment changes when she transforms internally.

It is my hope that, through watching Lolo’s transformation, audiences are inspired to find their own inner power!

What challenges did you face in developing and bringing this production to the stage, especially considering the unique circumstances of the pandemic?

My first solo show, Jaxx & Lolo, actually won the Fringe Festival in 2020. The run was extended. I was so happy! And then, the world shut down. Of course, there were greater tragedies during that time than my show being canceled, but it was still heartbreaking for me.

I took the opportunity to start writing down dating stories. Some were personal experiences, some were fiction, some were dreams. I began working on a book version, that later became the source material for Lolo’s Boyfriend Show. I spent a lot of time developing the book, as well as the solo show. First with Matt Hoverman, and then with director Christine Bokhour. The obstacle of the pandemic actually gave me space to deepen the material and grow as an artist.

The play incorporates theatre, multimedia, and music. How do these elements enhance the storytelling experience?

We want the audience to feel as if they are stepping inside the soul of Lolo, from the moment they walk into the theatre! Hopefully, the multi-media experience facilitates that. Lolo is already onstage and engaged as the audience enters the space. She’s listening to a playlist, and there are semi-abstract projections on the screen. We hope to immerse the audience in the Lolo experience!

Could you share some insights into your creative process as both the writer and performer of “Lolo’s Boyfriend”?

I started out writing stream-of-consciousness stories about relationships. Since I have so many funny stories, I originally thought this would be pure comedy. But as I got deeper into the material, some darker elements began to reveal themselves. Lolo’s “hero’s journey” began to crystalize. I had so much material to choose from, but the perfect characters and stories to facilitate Lolo’s journey became very clear.

After the solo show version was finalized, I had the opportunity to embody each of the characters. I like to create a unique physicality, voice, and psychology for each character. An interesting thing about playing many characters is that, as I step into each one, I experience their emotions and inner life!

I spent a lot of time with the words themselves – meditating on them, moving with them, embedding them in my cells. So, when it comes time to perform, I don’t worry about the words. Inspiration can move them through me!

How has the collaboration with director Christine Bokhour influenced the development of the show?

Christine and I have a deep heart connection. I actually prayed for the right director to work on Lolo with me, and Christine is absolutely the answer to that prayer! She said she immediately resonated with the story upon her initial reading the script.

When Christine and I first started working together, the script for Lolo’s Boyfriend Show was over two hours long! So, the first thing we did was collaborate on some trims. Christine had a brilliant eye for discerning what is essential in the telling of a story.

We spent a particularly long time developing one of the opening monologues. I kept trying different approaches, and she said, “No, not quite…” until we found the right words and psychology to launch the show!

After the script was finalized, we spent about six months rehearsing Lolo before the Fringe, meticulously shaping each moment of the show.

Can you give us a glimpse into the character of Lolo and her journey throughout the play?

Since she was a little girl, Lolo has been obsessed with finding “True Love.” She places her happiness and self-worth outside of herself. She’s fallen in love often and had her heart broken more times than she can count. She usually ignores that “still small voice” that might help her navigate relationships. At the beginning of the play, Lolo’s tour is shut down, and she is forced to examine her life and sit with that “still small voice”. She is ultimately propelled into a profound transformation!

What do you hope audiences will connect with most in “Lolo’s Boyfriend,” and why?

I hope that audiences connect with Lolo’s vulnerability and her emotional journey. Lolo faces some heartbreaking moments and deep feelings. I hope audiences witness Lolo “surviving” her emotions, and are in turn empowered to survive their own deep feelings. I think a lot of people – especially young people – can get overwhelmed by their emotions. Sometimes, it seems like we won’t survive the big waves of emotions that come over us. But, by witnessing a character surviving (and ultimately thriving), through emotional turmoil, I hope audiences are inspired to do the same!

Lastly, how does it feel to have the world premiere of “Lolo’s Boyfriend” at The New York City Fringe Festival, and what are your hopes for the production’s future?

I’m over the moon with happiness about the world premiere of Lolo’s Boyfriend Show at the New York City Fringe Festival! I am so appreciative of this fabulous festival for the opportunity. It’s a dream come true! So far, we have had a wonderful turnout and reception. After the Fringe, director Christine Bokhour and I are determined to have a tremendously successful Off-Broadway run of Lolo’s Boyfriend Show, so please stay tuned for that! And thank you very much for the opportunity to interview with you!

See “Lolo’s Boyfriend Show” playing at the Theater at the 14th Street Y through April 21st. Get tickets HERE.

Gemma Lolos

Social Media Manager, City Pulse Editor + Staff Writer

Gemma Lolos is a fiercely proud native New Yorker who is devoted to the arts in all its many forms. She loves to sing and listen to music, read great literature, experience inspiring theatre and film, and stream addictive television. She works full-time as a Marketing professional in New York City and does freelance writing on the side. In her free time, Gemma tries to immerse herself in the New York arts scene as much as possible, eat great food, and travel whenever she is able.