Rattlestick Productions has extended its Off-Broadway run of Down South, the new orgiastic farce by Doug Field, through September 30. I got a chance to chat with star Alice Vaughn about the important things in life: Tiffany's, nuns, and Laura Petrie.
JIM CARUSO: How did you become involved with Down South?
ALICE VAUGHN: I've worked with Rick Sparks, the director, before. I saw him at a party in L.A. and he told me he wanted to see me for the project, even though they thought the role of Jennifer was already cast. I went in and got the role instead of the person they initially wanted. From there, it's all show business history!
JC: How long did the show run in L.A.?
AV: It was supposed be six weeks, but we ended up running four months.
JC: It was a big cult hit?
AV: Yes. One guy came to see it 12 times.
JC: That in itself scares me! Tell me about the role you're playing.
AV: I play Jennifer Barnes, a housewife from Erie, Pennsylvania in 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis inspires my character to want to live life more fully, so she goes about persuading her husband to perform oral sex on her.
JC: Thus the title...
AV: Down South!
JC: And the raunchy hilarity ensues. One reviewer called it Beaver Knows Best.
AV: [laughing] I didn't read that one! Sounds like he should be writing comedies!
JC: I was a very young child in Pennsylvania during the Cuban Missile Crisis; I have a feeling this show is going to look a lot like my childhood.
AV: Everyone says it's a combination of their parents and The Dick Van Dyke Show. That's one reason I love my role, because I get to be very Laura Petrie-ish--including, of course, the Capri pants. I also get to burst into dance quite a few times, like she did. Remember when Rob and Laura would have dinner parties and the guests would say, "Come on, Laura, dance for us!" and she'd say, "Oh, I couldn't...okay!"
JC: And there was always an unseen band playing for her. Where were they, in the kitchen? Those are my kind of parties! The subject matter of Down South never came up with Rob and Laura, though.
AV: Well, they had separate beds...
JC: Back in L.A., have you been able to make your living as a stage actress?
AV: Yes, mostly in small, cult-theater pieces. I spent several years in Denver performing in plays and doing improv comedy. When I realized I would never make a fabulous living as an actor there, I moved to L.A., where I've yet to make a fabulous living as an actor.
JC: So you're originally from Denver?
AV: Yes. I went to an all-girls Catholic school which eventually became co-ed. We had a great theater department, though, directed by angry nuns.
JC: I love angry nun stories! Tell me one.
AV: No. I don't think so. It seems like bad nun karma, putting that out there. They'll get you in the next life if they don't get you in this one.
JC: From doing all those cult shows, you must have an interesting array of fans in L.A.
AV: I think that I must; but I never look like myself on stage, so I'm never recognized. That's a great thing, because I'm very shy. Every once in a while, though, they figure out who I am, and I really have to give them a thumbs up for being so smart.
JC: Tell me about your improv group, The Bubalaires.
AV: The Bubalaires speak no English. The show is done in total gibberish, which allows for the weirdness to occur much more readily. We're from a fictional country called Chezno Kachesky--a faux Eastern-Block country. The premise is that we were part of an enormous performing arts group sent to the U.S. and were abandoned because our country lost all its funds, so we're stuck here. The audience fills out questionnaires to make up the details of the improvs.
JC: What kinds of questions?
AV: Questions like, "What is your favorite play?" or "What did your father do for a living?" Because it's all in gibberish, it becomes very physical and crazy. We've been doing this for almost 10 years and have performed at Fringe Festivals all over the country.
JC: When did you arrive in New York?
AV: June 10th. I haven't made up my mind if I'm going to stay when the run of Down South is over, but I love it here so much!
JC: Tell me about your New York experience so far.
AV: It's so fabulous being in this city. I've been going nonstop, too. I still have that obligatory feeling that there's something really great going on at all times and I don't want to miss out on any of it. I've seen a lot of plays and taken a lot of walking tours. I want to do the tour of Greenwich Village that takes you to where different people have died. I know that sounds ghastly, but it interests me! I've been holding off doing some things because I have family coming to town for a visit. Then we'll do the whole Empire State Building/Statue of Liberty trip. I'm so excited because, today, I'm going to ride The Beast.
JC: The what?
AV: It's a really fast powerboat that takes you from the 42nd Street pier down to the Statue of Liberty. They throw water balloons at you and it's a big, fat adrenaline rush. This will be the second time I've done it. I love it.
JC: I've never heard of this.
AV: I found it in a book called Secret New York.
JC: What a wonderful way to come to New York--with a job!
AV: It certainly is. And I get to work with talented and funny people on a show I love. I've never had a lazier time in my life, either. Since the show is at night, during the day I go to yoga, I walk the city, I go to Tiffany's.
JC: What did you buy at Tiffany's?
AV: Nothing, but I had so much fun watching the customers. A businessman was picking out a gift for his girlfriend, and either he has really bad taste or she does, because he was buying some kind of pin/necklace set. It was a gold kitty with a purse. Hideous.
JC: Eww! Like when Laura Petrie's mother-in-law gave her the family brooch, which was a map of the United States in gold.
AV: Exactly! And Laura dropped it down the garbage disposal. I guess it all comes back around to The Dick Van Dyke Show, doesn't it?
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