Theatre 4the People's Erika Phoebus on LOU / by Declan Maloney Drummond

What is LOU about?

LOU is the story of Lou Salome, one of the first female psychoanalysts as well as an accomplished writer, poet and an early pioneer of the psychology of female sexuality. She worked very closely with Freud and was in fact more accomplished than he was upon their meeting later in her life. She influenced many great thinkers of her time, having a deeply intimate relationship with Nietzsche and later taking Rilke as a lover. Despite the fact that Lou’s brilliance matched, if not surpassed, that of these great men, her legacy was buried in history, and being woman is the culprit. Lou tells the story of a woman defending her way of life and fighting for her place in a world dominated by men.

What is the mission of Theatre 4the People?

At the core of Theatre 4the People’s mission is community. The heartbeat of the company lies in breaking down the walls between artist and audience and expanding the way art can affect change. We’re a company of activists dedicated to nurturing playwrights, as well as developing and producing work, that align with these endeavors. Art is a huge way we take part in freedom of speech, and I know there are some powerful people who feel quite threatened by that right now. Art creates a deep sense of unity, challenging our own thoughts, creating more compassion, and furthering our understanding of what it is to be human. I’m really lucky I have the privilege of running a company that keeps these values at it’s center.

What led to Theatre 4the People producing LOU and how has the piece developed to production?

The founder of Theatre 4the People, Isaac Byrne, planted the Lou Salome seed in Haley Rice’s head and she ended up nurturing that seed out onto the page. Then Theatre 4the People did a reading of the first draft last Spring. It struck such a chord and the most fascinating debate flourished afterwards about gender norms and feminism. At that point, I knew Isaac had plans of signing the company over to me when he left for grad school at the end of the summer and I wanted to develop the play further with the company. The original reading was done with men playing the male roles but after careful consideration we decided Lou’s story needed to be told with an all female ensemble in an attempt to reclaim her story. This then birthed an all female design team as well. The female narrative we were creating needed to go beyond the actors onstage. We all had the impulse that LOU should be played by a woman of color. Lou’s story parallels our current reality in so many ways. Still to this day white men are the loudest voice in the room and marginalized women are the most over looked and silenced. LOU is about standing your ground in a room filled with the dominant voice. Once all this came together, we did a few workshops and the rest is history.

You have Pay What You Can tickets and a portion of box office takings is going to charity. Why is that important to you and who do you aim to support?

Every production we donate a portion of the box to a charity or organization of the playwright’s choosing. It’s their story we’re telling, they should be able to choose what charity their work benefits. This all started last year when Theatre 4the People produced my play KISS IT, MAKE IT BETTER and I asked Isaac, the (then) Artistic Director, if we could give a portion of the box to R.A.I.N.N. (Rape, Abuse, Incest, National Network). It was such a personal piece and I was really hungry to see what other ways we could get involved with when it came to the outreach of the play. It’s important to me that we continue fostering these relationships, it’s a part of how we’re living out our mission. Haley has chosen Preemptive Love Coalition as the charity for LOU. They’re a really beautiful organization that offers relief, education, and resources, particularly to children, in conflict zones. The pay-what-you-can tickets available at each performance is a hat tip to the relationship between audience and artist. I very much believe that art is a product, and a very necessary one at that. Though this helps us keep our doors open to those who may not usually walk in, either for financial reasons or because they are not a usual theater goer. Pay what you can tickets.allow us to nurture the passion in those who wouldn’t usually spend their time or resources here. I love seeing someone become a theater goer and find ways to make room for more art in their lives.

What's next for the company?

I’ve been writing a new play about little girls seducing Nazis during WWII that we’re about to start workshopping, which I’m so very excited about. We’re working on developing a writers group (playwrights inquire at!) and a few outreach programs are in the works as well. And then, of course, our next MainStage production will be announced soon!