Q & A with Lauren Pizzi and Will Von Vogt of ‘Partners’

Will Von Vogt and Lauren Pizzi in LiveWire Chicago
Theatre’s Chicago premiere of Partners by Dorothy Fortenberry, directed by Kendra Miller.
Will Von Vogt and Lauren Pizzi in LiveWire Chicago Theatre’s Chicago premiere of “Partners” by Dorothy Fortenberry, directed by Kendra Miller.
Will Von Vogt and Lauren Pizzi in LiveWire Chicago Theatre’s Chicago premiere of "Partners" by Dorothy Fortenberry, directed by Kendra Miller.
Will Von Vogt and Lauren Pizzi in LiveWire Chicago
Theatre’s Chicago premiere of “Partners” by Dorothy Fortenberry, directed by Kendra Miller.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his summer, LiveWire Chicago Theatre’s “Partners” presents an honest and poignant look into the realm of relationships. The show is a challenging treat and features DePaul Theatre School alumni Lauren Pizzi and Will Von Vogt. The DePaulia had the opportunity speak with both of them to learn more about the production, their characters’ friendship within it, and their experience at DePaul, as well.

The DePaulia: Can you tell me a little bit about the character that you portray within the show?

Lauren Pizzi: Claire is an aspiring chef who works as a food stylist. She loves the craft of cooking and loves doing it but doesn’t feel super confident. She loves her husband and loves her best friend. She is sort of coming into her own. The play is about her finding herself and finding her stance and her balance.

Will Von Vogt: Ezra is twenty-eight years old and he is sort of transitioning out of the young, mid-twenties sort of “lost in translation” and facing thirty and facing adulthood and trying to lay the groundwork for what that means and in the play that takes a couple different faces. One is on his romantic life. He has been in a couple for about three years. Gay marriage passed in New York so that crosses a huge benchmark and what it means for the relationship. Also, in a major way, where he stands professionally and the identity that comes behind that.

DP: I understand that the relationship between Claire and Ezra is very integral to the plot. Could you tell me about that friendship, as well?

LP: They say when you’re in your late twenties and you are still using the word best friend, there is something funny about that but I think that for them it is this wonderful brother sisterly relationship. No one can make her laugh, no one can understand her the way he does. She tells things to Ezra that she won’t even tell to her own husband. There is that special intimacy that only exists between the two of them. There is a kind of fun that she can have and a kind of ease that she can have with Ezra that she doesn’t have with anyone else. That being said, there is a lot of peer pressure that comes from him and she is really subject to that, also. He can push her in ways that other people can’t.

WVV: It is definitely a friendship that has been through the ages and through the phases. They met in college and there is a line about them drinking vanilla vodka and dying each other’s hair and solving each other’s juvenile problems. I think they have both evolved over this span of many years and are beginning to change. I think a lot of the play is sort of the stretching of those stitches of that relationship because they are both beginning a phase of a new realm in their lives and that is sometimes really hard when that happens to people that you are close to. But Ezra also sort of identifies Claire as his meal ticket for this big dream that he has for their careers so he puts a lot of pressure on her but there is also a lot of love and history there.

DP: If you had to pick on favorite aspect of this show, what would it be?

LP: I just think it is one of those plays where it seems simple, but the more you get into the work of it the more complicated it is. It is about relationships, you know? There is something clear that each person is fighting for and I love that. It is so clear. They want something. Claire wants to be loved and to be respected and to be able to be herself and have these strong convictions and I think she has such a hard time because she has been a certain person for those loved ones for so long and it is really hard to change. They don’t want you to change, you know?

WVV: I think my favorite aspect of the show is just the athleticism of the dialogue and I think that sort of applies for all characters. It is a very wordy play and it is wordy and articulate in a contemporary style, which is really fun to get to play in.

DP: I understand that you are DePaul Theatre School alumni. Has your time at there impacted your career in the theater world in any specific ways?

LP: Oh my gosh, in every way to be honest. I know I wouldn’t be doing the work that I’m doing now had I not had that experience not only because of the education that I got but because of the people that I met and there are two DePaul alums in this show and this is the first time that I have been able to work with fellow alums in a show and it is a shorthand to the work. So we got into the work faster because we have the same training, which is really spectacular.

WVV: The time there is really the only reason I’ve had had any career in the theater world and it’s the reason I’m also back in Chicago. I’d left Chicago and I found that the community that DePaul gave me during school and especially after school was too valuable to leave behind and that’s really what’s brought me to the life that I live now and sort of all aspects of my artistic life. I run a performance event at Beauty Bar called “Salonathon” and the whole reason I’m doing that is a connection from a DePaul grad. Everyone sees DePaul on your resume or through meetings or through alumni events. You know, DePaul got me my agent, DePaul got me exposure, and DePaul got me the training that I needed to back all of that up. I am always very grateful for my time at the Theatre School.

DP: If you had to tell your audience one thing before they see this production, what would it be?

LP: Just that I hope they see themselves there. I hope they see themselves in these people. Come ready to laugh with an open heart. My hope for you is that you find yourself somewhere in these people.

WVV If I was going to tell the audience one thing I would say prepare yourselves to see characters you don’t always find attractive but that you find yourself within. Get ready for what that means. I’ve noticed a very strong reaction. It’s definitely a challenge.

“Partners” will be at The Den Theatre through July 20, 2014.

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