“The Memory Show,” Joe’s Pub, and Frozen Yogurt – An Interview with Leslie Kritzer

LESLIE-1-2Frozen yogurt shops of New York, be warned: Leslie Kritzer will probably be coming your way very soon. The actor, who has been seen on Broadway in Hairspray and Legally Blonde: The Musical, as well as numerous off-Broadway and regional productions, will be taking the stage in The Memory Show at The Duke on 42nd Street in what she refers to as a very intense performing experience. And, Kritzer said, one of her ways of coping with stress is to buy frozen yogurt.

“Whenever I have a bad experience or a bad day, I want frozen yogurt,” Kritzer said. “It’s so funny – it makes me so happy.”

Given Kritzer’s upcoming schedule, she may be buying in pints rather than cups, because along with the opening of The Memory Show, she is also preparing her solo show, Beautiful Disaster, at Joe’s Pub. And while one may find her purchasing some Cookies & Cream or Pink Cheesecake at Tasti D Lite, she mentioned the danger of self-serve frozen yogurt shops, where customers can purchase as much as they would like. But she probably won’t overload on too much sugar, as she has said of her busy schedule, “I’ve definitely learned a lot. I have to take really good care of myself!”

Newly married, Kritzer said, “After planning a wedding, I feel like I can do anything. Some of the top stressful things – moving, weddings – I’ve done two of them, so I’m pretty sure I can handle this.”

The Memory Show, which Kritzer has performed before at Barrington Stage Company with her co-star Catherine Cox, is a new musical with book and lyrics by Sara Cooper and music by Zach Redler. Directed by Joe Calarco, it tells the story of a daughter who returns to her childhood home to care of her aging mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

“It’s a very intense kind of show that is unlike anything else I’ve done in New York,” Kritzer said. “It means a lot to me, on many levels…It’s a beautiful, 90-minute intense show that is a labor of love in the sense that it’s so difficult for me to do physically. It takes a chunk out of me. It affects me so deeply; it’s so raw.”

Kritzer noted that two of the subjects of The Memory Show – Alzheimer’s and children caring for their parents – have been reported on frequently in the media but are not experienced in theater as often.

“It’s difficult to deal with an illness, and being an estranged daughter from your parents,” she said. “What I think is beautiful about the show, without giving it away, is that an illness can bring people together. It shows a lot of compassion. The themes of the show are compassion and change and love – and how love can prevail. And I think especially in the world we’re living in today, we need that. We need forgiveness, love and compassion.”

Performing in The Memory Show has inspired Kritzer to seek those qualities in herself, and she said, “Doing this show with Catherine has changed me as a person. I’ve found things about myself and I’ve said, ‘Wow. I can be more compassionate toward my mom. I can be more forgiving.’”

Some of this forgiveness Kritzer said was inspired was realizing her mother was her age once.

“We didn’t come with a handbook,” she said. “They did the best they could. That’s part of the story – realizing your parents are just people and realizing the mortality of people who raise you.”

While The Memory Show may be intense, Kritzer’s show at Joe’s Pub is equally intense, she said, but in a different way. She said going from an evening performance of The Memory Show to an 11:30 performance of Beautiful Disaster will help her to adjust from the intensity.

“There are times when I walk offstage and I don’t have time to be a mess, because I have to gear up, get my stuff together, and go downtown,” she said. “It’s actually good for me. You have no choice but to brush it off and keep on going. I’m being semi-ambitious by doing that, but I figure, ‘Yeah, why not?’”

Kritzer chose to name her show, which is about her high school years, Beautiful Disaster, because she views her high school as beautiful. She also cites what she calls an obsession with tornadoes due to their ability to cause destruction but also contain beauty.

“If you ever see pictures of tornadoes, they’re unbelievable – the colors, the funnels…that’s how I feel about my senior year of high school,” she said. “I was such a hot mess. It was beautiful. I was more beautiful than I thought I was – and not even literally.”

Looking back at high school, Kritzer said she can see in retrospect how everything was meant to be, and why the pieces fell where they did. She rebelled a great deal as a teenager, and she said her anger and rebellion lead her to where she is now.

“There is something beautiful in the imperfection of it,” she said. “I learned from it, I grew from it, and I wound up pursuing my dream…The acceptance of pain and what’s going on. I have to take responsibility for what’s going on. I didn’t have perspective at the time. There’s always a part of me that will always want to back to high school and rewrite it. If I knew then what I know now…but I’m not supposed to. It was supposed to go down exactly as it did.”

Costumes are not a huge part of Beautiful Disaster, but Kritzer said she is trying to incorporate the grunge look, and she does need a Pearl Jam t-shirt.

“I wore Doc Martins, faded jeans, and plaid shirts,” she said of her style as a teenager. “And those random baby doll dresses with tights. I had long, black hair with bangs and bushy eyebrows and random red lipstick – or the pencil lipstick with the pale shade of lipstick in between. I don’t know where that came from, but we were all doing it.”

While her friends in high school may have had a different sense of style than her current closest friends, one quality remains the same – Kritzer has always been drawn to funny, opinionated women.

“Most of my closest friends are hilarious,” Kritzer said. “I don’t like to be the only funny one. Some of the funniest people I know are not trying to be funny. They’re just hilarious. It’s who they are.”

When asked about the theory that women aren’t funny, Kritzer’s response was, “That’s so annoying. That’s just men being assholes.” She elaborated, saying, “Women are hilarious. Not all women, but a lot. We all have different tastes. Everyone has an opinion. If a woman’s funny, a woman’s funny. There are some major female comedians that people would live and die for that I don’t think are hilarious, but I can appreciate why people think they’re funny. That’s just me.”

Kritzer said she hopes more comedic roles will be written for all kinds of women,

“There’s some powerhouse women right now that are paving the way for women who are funny. I think it’s changing. I think they all really respect each other and write for different kinds of women. Hopefully that will continue and men will follow suit and not just write the same old stupid comedic movies. It’s like, ‘Get over yourself. You guys are over 40. No one cares. You’re not in your 20s any more.'”

Regarding her upcoming projects, Kritzer said, “I try to do my best and always remember I have more to learn, to ask questions and be open minded and take fear and insecurity and channel it towards something good. You can’t let fear and insecurity get the best of you. What I try to do is channel it towards accepting that it’s OK to be afraid, to let the process take its course and take good care of myself and be good to myself. I just come back to basics, and let myself have a good cry.”

Along with a good cry, Kritzer said she might end up with some frozen yogurt as well. But, she said, “Supervised. I might need someone to go with me, otherwise I might walk out with two unlimited cups.”

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