Call Redialed: Alison Fraser: "Squeamish" by Aaron Mark, All For One Theater
After providing coverage for Aaron Mark's two previous plays Empanada Loca & Another Medea, I'm so excited to get the inside scoop on his third psychological horror play, Squeamish, in this new interview with the show's star, two-time Tony nominee Alison Fraser! Alison & Aaron have known each other for several years now, so it's rather exciting to hear about their collaboration and find out how Alison prepares herself every night for this darkly twisted adventure!
Squeamish is the tale of an Upper West Side psychoanalyst, a long-time recovering alcoholic whose bloody quest for personal balance begins when she finds herself in the South Plains of Texas, off her meds, after her nephew's suicide.
Squeamish, produced by All For One Theater, will play The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street) from October 6-November 11. Click here for tickets!
1. You are currently starring in All For One Theater's production of Aaron Mark's psychological horror play Squeamish. First, how did you and Aaron come to know each other? What does it feel like to have a role written specifically for you? Aaron and I met when he was assistant directing a reading that I was doing. I believe he was 18 or 19. Five years after this reading he contacted me about a part he had written for me in an excellent little indie film called Commentary he was directing. I read the script, and immediately fell madly in love with his writing. I accepted the role, and have continued to work with him ever since. Having a role written for you is a huge honor of course, and I have been incredibly lucky to have worked on many original plays and musicals for some of the greatest writers around. When you are involved in the creation of a piece, naturally pieces of you end up in the finished product, but my artistic connection with Aaron is very deep. He obviously sees something intriguing in me because he has written five pieces, all of them quite dark, specifically for me. One was very much inspired by a jarring incident in my life -- Deer - a wonderfully funny and scary play about the crazed deer that tried to commit suicide on my car. It's being produced around the country now, and has been published by Dramatists Play Service. Now, thanks to #TheTwistedMindOfAaronMark (yes I came up with that hashtag and he likes it) the deer did not die in vain-now he belongs to the ages. And as for having had Aaron write the astonishing Squeamish for me? He's plumbing depths I had no idea I possessed. It’s thrilling, and more than a little frightening. He saw that in me?
2. What has been the best part about working with Aaron? How does his vision as a playwright line up with what you look for in looking for parts to play? Not only is Aaron a sensational writer and a highly skilled director, he is one of the sweetest, smartest, funniest hardest working people I have ever met. The best part of working with Aaron is getting to be in the room with him every day.
As for his plays? They are exactly what plays should be--inventive, original, dangerous, passionate and challenging. 45-pages-of-solo-dialogue challenging. Who was it that said if theatre doesn't scare you it's not worth doing? With Squeamish, I am shaking in my shoes.
Alison Fraser, "Squeamish", Photo Credit: Mara Baranova3. What do you relate to most about your character? What is one characteristic of hers that you are glad you don't possess yourself? I relate to "Sharon's" sense of wonder and discovery, her need to explore what makes her tick, her independence, and of course her low key New York fashion savvy.
As for part two of the question? I am seriously glad that aside from that little pill glitch mentioned below, addiction does not seem to be in my tool belt.
4. How do you prepare yourself mentally & physically for such a heavy show each night? I stopped drinking completely for this show, because I realized I needed all the brain cells I could possibly muster. I try to sleep well, and walk as much as possible. I eat very simple, usually home-prepared food, except for the insidious and delicious Reese's peanut butter eyeballs that keep showing up in rehearsal. They are addictive, which is apropos of our show.
And as for mentally? I will go through the show at home before I perform at night, just to make sure all the pieces are in right order. I already do it on the street & a lot and people are starting to give me a wide berth.
Alison Fraser, "Squeamish", Photo Credit: Mara Baranova5. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Squeamish? I hope after seeing Squeamish people come away with the feeling that they have just seen a world premiere of a play by an important new playwright, and the realization that actors can indeed (hopefully) hold single court for an hour and a half or so just by telling a compelling, beautifully written story. Not all theatre needs the Phantom’s chandelier.
6. Your character is long-time recovering alcoholic. Have you ever been addicted to anything? If so, how did you recover? I had about a year in my life when a very bad doctor would call in Xanax and Prednisone prescriptions for me whenever I asked for it. Recovery? I think the show that was stressing me out closed, and my anxiety waned and I didn't have to belt long high notes for a while so I just stopped taking the pills.
Alison Fraser, "Squeamish", Photo Credit: Mara Baranova7. "Sharon" is also on a quest to find personal balance. How do you find the balance between work and personal life? Right now my work life is my personal life because of the nature of the Squeamish beast. I basically live like a hermit and am zero fun, because of the daunting task I face. But I am looking forward to the time when I can get out to my sweet little place in the country again and relax without words words words occupying my brain. And reading a book again will be nice. And oh for a glass of fine red wine!
8. The character you play is a psychoanalyst. If you had to psychoanalyze yourself, what is something you feel you need to change about yourself to improve your life? I really have to stop taking politics so seriously because it has led me in this past year down a dark dark path. My doctor and I are working on it. Switching from the constant CNN feed to an occasional Modern Family helps. Temporarily.
9. Since the show is titled Squeamish, what makes you most squeamish? Easy answer. Salt pork. I wish it didn't exist in the world because even the thought of it makes my skin crawl. And don't even get me started on fried pork rinds.
More on Alison:
Alison Fraser was recently seen as "Mommy" in Lila Neugebauer’s production of Edward Albee’s The Sandbox and "The Landlady" in Adrienne Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of a Negro at The Signature Theatre, in addition to "Nancy Reagan" and "Betty Ford" in Michael John LaChiusa’s First Daughter Suite at the Public Theater, for which she was nominated for both a Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel Award. She is a two-time Tony Award nominee for The Secret Garden and Romance/Romance. Other Broadway roles includes "Dorine" in Tartuffe at Circle-In-The-Square, "Helena" in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and "Tessie Tura" in Arthur Laurents’ production of Gypsy starring Patti LuPone. She has created many roles Off-Broadway including "Arsinoé" in David Ives’ The School For Lies, "Sister Walburga" in Charles Busch’s The Divine Sister, "Jessie" in Terrence McNally’s Dedication or the Stuff of Dreams, "The Matron" (opposite Shirley Knight) in the world premiere of Tennessee Williams’ In Masks Outrageous and Austere, "Trina" in William Finn’s March of the Falsettos and In Trousers, and "Miss Drumgoole" in Todd Rundgren’s Up Against It. Film and TV credits include the new SyFy series Happy! opposite Chris Meloni, High Maintenance, Happyish, Smash, It Could Be Worse, Impossible Monsters, Blowtorch, Socks and Bonds, Understudies, Jack in A Box, and The Thing About My Folks opposite Peter Falk and Paul Reiser. She has been heard on thousands of radio and television commercials, hundreds of audiobooks, and dozens of albums, including three solo efforts: A New York Romance, Men In My Life, and Tennessee Williams: Words and Music.