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Zoe Perry on Teenage Angst and Watching Her Co-Star Mom, Laurie Metcalf, Lose Her Mind in The Other Place

Backstage dancing, personalized playing cards, and visits from Elaine Stritch highlight Perry's Broadway debut. logo

Every show ends sometime (unless you're Phantom), so before the cast takes their final bow, there are a few things we want to know.

How many actors get to make their Broadway debut alongside one their parents? That is the unique circumstance of Zoe Perry, who co-stars in Sharr White's psychological drama The Other Place opposite her mom, Emmy Award winner and Tony nominee Laurie Metcalf (TV's Roseanne, Brighton Beach Memoirs). Perry plays three roles in the thriller, including a young doctor, a brilliant neurologist with issues of memory, a mysterious stranger, and, naturally, her mother's daughter. As she looks back on her Broadway debut, Perry reminisces about New York audiences, roles she'd like to play opposite her stage vet mom, and how the cast "dances it out" backstage.

Zoe Perry
(© Joan Marcus; David Gordon)

Name: Zoe Perry
Role/Show: "The Woman"/The Other Place

1. What is your favorite line that you delivered?
It's probably some of the ones I get to throw from off stage as Laurel, because they're just too fun. There's nothing quite like screaming at the top of your lungs as a teenager with angst. It's a good release.

2. Everyone loves inside jokes. So tell us…
a. What's the best one from your show?
b. Since there probably is one, what's the punch line of your cast's most unprintable inside joke?
I don't know that there's one that's consistent enough to warrant a punch line. There's a weird amount of dancing backstage. Very child-like dancing. [And], there's a joke that's repeated just about every show from our stage manager. Right at half-hour, my mom gets her 10-minute call, and it's followed by "Get it together, Laurie!"

3. Every show experiences technical difficulties. What was the worst technical difficulty to be experienced during your show and how was it handled?
We've been lucky enough that we haven't had many technical difficulties. It's [usually] someone in the front row falling asleep or crinkling something particularly loud. Someone was doing a fair amount of digging and it happened at a moment where my mom could wave a finger at them.

4. What was the most "interesting" present someone gave you at the stage door?
I got a letter that included…it looked like playing cards? With my face on them? I was tempted to keep them, but it was too cruel. They were postmarked, so he'll get them back, unfortunately. He did a good job. (Laughs).

5. Who is the coolest person that came to see your show? (You can't say your family!)
Elaine Stritch came. I never thought I'd get to meet her. She sauntered down the hall and told everyone how much she liked it.

6. Is it difficult to watch your mother go through a complete loss of her memory? Are you able to separate stage from reality?
Weirdly, it is separated. I think people know our relationship, and maybe it's odder for them because it adds an extra layer to their understanding. For us, it's been a really positive and easy experience working with someone you know very well, and in my case, trust very well.

7. So you're midway through the show's run, and Daniel Stern (Home Alone) departs the company. What was it like to acclimate to new cast member Bill Pullman (Oleanna) in such a short period of time?
It's definitely a surreal experience. I found it really rewarding, too. It made me look at everything fresh again. I was really thankful for that. It's also been a true blessing to have Danny [Stern], who was such a wonderful person, and then have Bill [Pullman] come in who was just as sweet, and caring, and nice. We really lucked out. It's been a positive backstage environment throughout the whole thing and it's like non-stop cackling.

8. You've done quite a bit of theater in Los Angeles. Are New York audiences different from LA audiences?
I would say so. In LA, the community of patrons is different. In New York, you have that solid foundation of people who go to the theater and love the theater. In LA, it's a different breed. Some people are newly introduced to theater, and then there are your transplants from New York or Chicago. It's a city that has amazing talent in it. I feel like there's a lack of appreciation for it in LA, but at the same time, it's still possible to, like in any city, get good work up. It just might be harder to get people to see it. It's been pretty cool to have the opportunity to be out there and constantly working on something. It doesn't pay well, but it's rewarding in a different way.

9. You and your mother have such a natural rapport on stage. Have you discussed doing any other plays with her? What are some roles you'd like to play opposite her?
I've never really thought of it, but this just popped into my mind: The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Neither of us are age appropriate, but that's something I'd love to visit. She played the daughter once, and she'd be spectacular as the mom. It would be raw and ugly, just how we like it [laughs].

10. What is your dream role?
That's a good question and I realize I don't even have a good answer for it. I'll just say this: there's something about getting to do a new play, with a newer playwright, and to come upon something that fires on all cylinders. If I could be doing that, I'd be happy.