Younger's Miriam Shor Accepts Her Invitation to The Wild Party at Encores!
An "off-center" homecoming for a television star with downtown roots, a yen for clowning, and hopes for a geriatric Broadway debut.
"I see myself as an edgy downtown gal," joked Miriam Shor, chameleonic character actress extraordinaire. In recent years, Shor has been filling up her résumé with television roles — her latest gig being the new TV Land series Younger in which she stars opposite two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster. But when the stage comes a-calling, it usually beckons her downtown — a niche she inaugurated with her memorable performance as Yitzhak in the original off-Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
A downtown darling at heart, it's only fitting that her return to the New York stage be part of the Encores! Off-Center series, which celebrates the best of the off-Broadway canon. From July 15-18, both Shor and her Younger costar Foster will star in New York City Center's Encores! presentation of Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party — not to be confused with Michael John LaChiusa's The Wild Party, which went to Broadway the very same year Lippa's musical opened off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club (both debuted in 2000).
Shor takes on the role of lesbian party guest Madelaine True, a character originated by Alix Korey, who, according to Shor, leaves behind big shoes and an extremely high belt. Daunted yet exhilarated by the role, the actress excitedly chatted about the project en route to Day One of rehearsal like an eager student on the first day of school. "I got my book bag and my pencil box," she reassured herself. "It's gonna be great."
Were you familiar with The Wild Party before getting cast in this production?
Yeah, I saw both of The Wild Partys when they came out. I had a lot of friends who were in the Andrew Lippa one off-Broadway and it was so fabulous. I mean, if you look at that cast it's kind of incredible. And it was slightly overshadowed by the fact that there was another show going on at the same time that was [derived from] the exact same material. But it's nice that this one gets its moment in the spotlight all its own.
How did this project get on your radar?
I think I have Leigh Silverman to thank for that. She and I have known each other for a while, and I'm a huge fan of hers. She asked me to come do this and I was like, Of course! Any time you want me to do an Encores! I'm happy to be in. Although it's terrifying because you have fifteen minutes to put on a full production. I did Hair at Encores! a thousand years ago — I had so much fun doing that show — but back then we would carry our scripts. It was more like a staged concert. But now the kids are just like, Yep, put the book down. I'm like, What if my character just carried the book and it's just part of the character? "Predatory lesbian book worm" I think is actually the description of the character. Everyone will buy it.
With your busy television schedule, how often do you get to do theater?
I went ahead and created two small people [daughters Ruby and Iris], and they're still small, so that makes the decision to do a show a little harder because then you're not around at night to put them to bed and stuff. And I've been lucky that I've been doing fun TV projects. But I do really miss the theater, which is why Encores! is so great. It feels like it used to when you first started. It's just like, We have a barn and here's the show we're putting on. It's a really beautiful barn and we have a lot more money than we're used to, but it's that kind of spirit, which I think is why so many people are drawn to it. It's just distilled into this little nugget of perfection. I don't know if my participation will be a nugget of perfection, but we'll go for it.
According to the off-Broadway cast recording, your character has a pretty great showstopping number.
That is Alix Korey, and Alix Korey, as far as I can tell, has had her vocal chords replaced by bionic vocal chords that no other human being can replicate. I don't think you can even hear that note she's belting it's so high. Dogs are running around my neighborhood now like, Ahh, listen to Alix Korey belting. She's just superb. So that's a little daunting. But Leigh is very much like, This is your role, you do what you want to do with it. So that's exciting too.
From transgender rocker Yitzhak in Hedwig to buttoned-up publishing executive Diana Trout in Younger, your characters are never confined to a single type. How would you classify your "type" as an actress?
I've always been a bit of a clown. But I think the seminal moment was when I was sixteen and I auditioned for a little production of The Wizard of Oz and I was like, "Clearly I'm Dorothy!" And they were like, "We'd like you to play the Wicked Witch." It was a moment in my life where I was like, "What? What do you mean?" But I gotta tell you, the Witch is more fun. As an actress I fought that for a little bit. And then people were like, "Do you not want to have more fun and also get to act into your later years?" Dorothy's done at twenty-five. The Witch is forever.
How does it feel when you come back to the stage after a long absence?
These are my people — these crazy show people. I remember when I came back from doing some sitcom that no one saw and I was auditioning for Merrily We Roll Along, there were all these dancers and singers — just a musical theater extravaganza happening around me, which on the wrong day you could be like, People, we're gonna take it down a notch. But having come from Los Angeles, it was so exciting to see the passion in the community. Because everybody in it is passionate about it. That's just infectious and it's how people should feel about what they do for a living.
Does working with Sutton Foster on Younger help keep you connected to your theater roots?
Yeah, for sure. You just innately feel the differences. We're like, "Look at us just sittin' here and people bringin' us stuff. How 'bout that? We don't have to sing or tap or anything!" And Sutton is just an amazing fabulous person, so anyone who gets to work with her is pretty lucky.
You've been part of the theater community for quite some time. Is it true you have yet to make your Broadway debut?
Nope, I've never been on Broadway. I got cast in Assassins as Squeaky Fromme before 9/11 [when the show was originally going to come to Broadway] and the pilot I did then got picked up and I wasn't able to do [Assassins]. That was a tough moment for me, because that is one of my all-time favorite roles. And then they kept talking about bringing Hedwig back to Broadway with the original cast and that almost happened. There have been some near misses, and some heartbreaking ones. It would be fun to be eighty-five and have a Broadway debut. That's the goal I'm shooting for. When they revive Driving Miss Daisy for the seven-hundredth time.