LOVED BY YOU, A Self-Love Story at Brava Theatre
by Linda Ayres-Frederick
For two nights only March 28 and 29th at Brava Theatre in SF, Lori Shantzis will perform her solo show Loved by You, a testament to the enduring spirit and strength of a woman whose childhood messages were anything but self-love and self-acceptance. In the interview below, Ms. Shantzis speaks of her experience writing her show and more:
LAF: What do you love most about writing/performing?
LS: I tend to be a very over-thinking, self-critical person, so for me both writing and performing are a meditation and a mindfulness practice. Even more than when I sit cross legged on the floor or bend myself into a pretzel in yoga, when the pen moves freely on the page or I embody a character, I am truly in the present moment, and it feels like I imagine how a surfer feels “in the zone”.
LAF: When did you first begin writing?
LS: I’ve been writing my autobiography since I was 8. Because I came from such a crazy, dysfunctional family, writing down the stories was both a way to distance myself from it as well as use my imagination to create a separate, more heroic form of myself. In my earlier work–perhaps until I was in my forties! I was more of a victim, a heroine with the back of her hand perpetually stuck to her forehead as the train was about it meet her on the tracks. Then, after a lot of inner work, I realized that there were not really any ropes holding me down, that I could have, and can now, simply get up, stand on my own two feet, and stop being a victim. I’ve also written a lot of fiction, but I know that in the end, my own story was the one that needed to be told.
LAF: And performing?
LS: I attempted a stand-up burlesque routine seven years ago (at forty) when I first got divorced. I convinced myself that I was too old to ever have any success at it, since it is such a school of hard knocks. That ‘s the premise for Loved by You: Why would a nearly 50 year old woman suddenly decide to take her clothes off in public? Ironically, telling that story is what has brought things full circle. The play has been a huge personal and professional success, not because I want to make a mid-life career of taking off my clothes in public, but because people identify with all the outrageous ways women struggle for love and acknowledgement, no matter their age.
LAF: When did you realize you wanted to be a performer?
LS: In the play I say it was when I was 6 years old, and I suppose it took me over 40 years to admit that that really has been a dream of mine. I’ve tended to be the shadow artist, dating actors and actresses, when I suppose I was secretly wanting my own 15 minutes of fame.
LAF: What do you consider to be your strengths as a writer/performer?
LS: I enjoy my ability to find the absurd in things. I never tell a straight story.
LAF: What do you want your audience to take away with them from your show?
LS: That going within and facing one’s demons is the gateway to healing: if I can love myself after everything I’ve been through, then anyone can, but it has to start with acknowledging that we didn’t ask our parents to f–k us up. We can love the innocent children within, even if we never get that love from our parents or from the outside world.
LAF: When you get down, what lifts your spirits back up?
LS: Talking with other creative people, meditation, yoga, watching happy children and dogs at the park. Cuddling with my daughter, who is an extremely happy and well-adjusted kid. Remembering that I am stronger than I thought.
LAF: What of your accomplishments are you most proud of? professionally?
LS: Professionally, creating the madcap yet harrowing story which is this play.
LAF: And personally?
LS: Getting treatment for my PTSD instead of sticking with the chemical haze that my psychiatrists have prescribed. Facing the dark truths and coming out the other side stronger for it.
LAF: What have been the most challenging experiences you’ve had putting this show together?
LS: Realizing that I couldn’t do all of the wild and wonderful things I envisioned because I just didn’t have the budget.
LAF: When you run out of ideas, if ever, where do you seek inspiration?
LS: Doing improv, writing with friends, reading poetry, going to see other solo performance, watching the Colbert Report.
LAF: Who would you say has influenced you most professionally?
LS: Solo Performer Ann Randolph
LAF: What do you do to relax?
LS: Scream in my car (alone), when I’m really stressed. I love it. People assume I’ve lost my mind, but it is honestly the most clearing thing I can do when I’m going off the anxiety deep-end. But I try to do a lot of yoga, listen to spiritual music, meditate, dance in my gallery before I get to that point.
LAF: What’s up next?
LS: After my shows at Brava, I’m booked for a mother’s day show of a new piece called “The Tragic Tale of the Pole-dancing Soccer Mom” through Meanie Productions at the Shelton Theater. Then I’ll be rewriting Loved by You for the Boulder Fringe, and hopefully taking the show to Santa Cruz and LA.
Loved by You by Lori Shantzis, plays at Brava Theater, 2781 24th St., SF, CA 94110, March 28 & 29, 8 pm, $15. Pre-show by The Conspiracy of Beards. Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/217478