Lois Robbins is a successful, accomplished actress who I’m sure you’ve seen on television or the movies. For some that would be enough, but not for Lois. After meeting with a psychic, she had an aha moment and created her own one-woman show L.O.V.E.R. The play is as funny, smart, and interesting as Lois Robbins herself. I loved hearing all about her creative process and how this show came to be. Read more of my talk with Lois Robbins below.
Give us an overview of your career.
I started my career doing soaps, all the ABC shows: Loving, Ryan’s Hope, All My Children and One Life to Live. I did a lot of commercials as well at that time. Theatre, episodic television and films followed. There was a gap in between when my kids were little because I wanted to be around for them. Once they were all in school full time, I went back with a vengeance.
Tell us about what you are doing now.
I’m currently performing L.O.V.E.R., my self-penned play at The Signature Theater until November 2nd. Then I go off to LA to shoot an indie film.
Your play L.O.V.E.R is all about the sexual history of one woman, from childhood to her adult life. Can you tell us about your aha moment that lead to you creating the show?
I had started writing a book. I was calling it “historical fiction.” I had a psychic reading with a woman who speaks to your spirit guides. I never mentioned my writing. Out of the blue she said, “your guides want me to ask you about your writing. It seems you started writing a book. They want me to tell you, it isn’t a book, it’s a play…and it’s about sex. You need to write it. It’s a game changer.” I took her seriously and started writing the outline that night, in the middle of the night. I couldn’t sleep. I had the first draft finished in four weeks. That was definitely an AHA moment!
Is it all based on your real-life sexual experiences? What was your writing process like?
It’s definitely “based” on my life but I have certainly taken poetic license. The writing kind of fell out of me. It was very organic. Subsequent drafts, as I performed it out of town, were definitely more challenging. I started remembering more things. Once you rewrite, it informs everything else, so lots of things had to be reimagined.
What’s it like writing and starring in a play that’s so personal?
It’s pretty exciting, actually. It’s been exhilarating to discover the writing at this point in my career. Getting personal feels like liberation day. Getting to the core of who and what I am has been the most cathartic thing I’ve ever done.
The play did so well that it’s getting an Off-Broadway run. What was the festival circuit like? Do you feel like people ‘got’ the play right away?
It was a long process of discovery. I learned more and more from each production about what worked and what didn’t work. Both in the writing and as an actor. One-person shows are very challenging. The audience has a lot of power because they are such a part of my experience up there. Most people get it. Like everything in life, not everyone will.
It’s always refreshing to see an entirely female production team. What’s your experience been like working with Karen Carpenter as your director? Have you been able to work with many other female directors?
Karen is one of the most gifted directors I’ve ever worked with. One of the first conversations we had before we started, gave me confidence that she was going to take the play to the next level. Her notes to me on the writing, challenged me to dig in and activate every moment. She made me promise I would be up for reinventing the whole play from previous productions. I had total faith in her and we just went for it. It has been a joy!
I worked with Meg Ryan when she directed her first film, Ithaca. I loved working with her. Also loved working with Lisa Arnold in the film One Nation Under God, due out Election Day.
Older women are so rarely shown as vibrant, sexual, and attractive. What’s the response been like? As an actress, what’s it like being able to play an older woman who’s all of those things?
I am A woman, age is irrelevant. I feel as sexually vibrant as I did in my twenties. The only difference is, now I have the confidence and moxie I didn’t have then! THAT’S attractive!
People are thanking me for having the guts to give a voice to so many issues that young woman, and “mature” woman have to deal with. Men seem to be moved by the play as well. There is a playfulness in my “character” in the play that allows me to be ageless.
Culturally, aging is viewed as this sad thing. In reality, I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t feel bad or sad. I feel better than ever. What’s the key to changing the conversation about aging?
I think, we don’t need to and shouldn’t define ourselves by age. There’s no reason that we can’t feel youthful and vibrant for our entire lives. It’s all in your head anyway. If you’re fortunate enough to be in good health, why not enjoy feeling young?
We can change the conversation by changing the limitations other people put on us.
I was about to be cast in a film, the producer called me at home. He said, “I have to ask you a question. The director loves you for this part. But, she’s curious how old you are. You’re being cast as the wife of a 45-year-old actor. I said, “Do I look to her and to you like I can be his 40-something year old wife? He said, “yes, that’s why we brought you in for the role.” I said, “great, then that’s all you need to know!” And they hired me!
Let’s not limit ourselves by a number!
What’s the best thing you’ve read lately?
I just finished The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. Just started ROUGE by my good friend Richard Kirshenbaum. It’s fabulous!.
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
ME…and if I wasn’t available…perhaps Elizabeth McGovern?
What’s the last thing you bought online?
Kava Root…for sleep, which I desperately need!
What would you put on your menopause registry?
That’s funny, hmm…baby oil (laughs).
If you could have one superpower what would it be?
The power to end poverty and homelessness.
If you had a warning label what would it say?
Wake me at your own risk. If you do, you better have a cup of coffee in your hand!