Breakout Stars Ushering in a New Golden Age on Broadway: Children of a Lesser God Tony Nominee Lauren Ridloff
BroadwayBox teams up with photographer Curtis Brown to present "Ushering in a New Golden Age", an exclusive photo and interview series in which we spotlight the breakout stars from the 2018 Broadway season and style each like Broadway's original age. This illustrious crew of Tony nominees, Drama Desk nominees, and fan favorites was photographed at the beautiful Hudson Theatre (home to next season's new musical Head Over Heels). Closing out the second week of the series is Tony Award nominee Lauren Ridloff, who makes an incredible, moving Broadway debut as Sarah Norman—a strong deaf woman navigating between the worlds of the hearing and the deaf in 1970s New England—in the first Broadway revival of Children of a Lesser God.
1. Was there a big role in high school or college that gave you the confidence to pursue this?
It wasn’t a theatre role, but it was the role of being Miss Deaf America. That definitely gave me the preparation I needed for this experience because when I was Miss Deaf America, I did so many interviews and met so many people, and I had to be someone I wasn’t. Sometimes when I felt tired or cranky, I still had to be on as Miss Deaf America.
2. What has changed most in your life since taking on this role?
What’s life?! [Laughs] I’m still trying to get a grasp on my life outside the theatre. I’m a mother—I have two young boys, age four and six—so my time at home is really focused on my boys. I love to go out in the backyard and play with my sons and maintain their routine before it’s time to go to the theatre. Before I started this, Kenny Leon sat down with me and we had a good talk in which he emphasized that while I should give my time to rehearsal and the theatre, I should always first and foremost put my family first. He said, that is the root of all of your motivation. I took his advice. Every day, I remembered to put my family first because they are the reason I am doing theatre. To be able to tell this story for the deaf community—both my sons are deaf—this is really important for me.
3. This series is all about this Broadway season’s breakout performers. If you could time machine back and see any big Broadway icon’s breakout stage performance, whose would you want to go back and see?
That’s an easy one to answer: Phyllis Frelich. She was the original Sarah in Children of a Lesser God. She did this on Broadway about 40 years ago. It was written for her. Mark Medoff met Phyllis and was enchanted by her and inspired to write a story for her. I wish I could go back in time to see her.
4. What’s the most sentimental thing in your dressing room?
I would have to say it would be all the presents I received from my cast and crew. I got a pair of socks from one of the supporting actors, a book from our director Kenny that he wrote, and a wonderful framed photograph. There were so many thoughtful gifts that I cherish.
5. What’s been your biggest obstacle in reaching this point in your career?
Assumptions and fear of people that are different.
6. What piece of advice would you give to future young women who will play Sarah—on Broadway, on the road, or at their school?
This play has been around for a long time and I’ve met so many people who have told me, “Hey, I did Sarah once.” I have several friends who also performed Sarah or Lydia. What I think is wonderful to see is that everyone gets to create their own Sarah. It’s what keeps this play alive.
For me, I discovered something new through this process, maybe because of the time we live in today. Young women today are hard on themselves, they want to be perfect. Now we have social media—Facebook and Instagram—so they are so aware of how they look and how they are doing things, and sometimes that desire for perfection could be really paralyzing. I think Sarah can really show young women that it’s okay not to be perfect. In the play Sarah says, “I don’t do things that I can’t do well,”—she says it twice in the show. But we all see Sarah evolve during the show. She realized the best thing to do is to take a risk.
Photographed by Curtis Brown at The Hudson Theatre. Makeup by Claudia Eltabie & Liv Swenson from Rouge Makeup Salons, Hair by Austin Thornton, Styling by Kinsland Howell Alice in Kinsland Styling. Clothing courtesy of Clothing courtesy of NY Vintage & Starstruck Vintage Clothing.
Click here to see the entire "Ushering in a New Golden Age" series, and don't miss Lauren Ridloff's stunning Broadway debut in Children of a Lesser God at Broadway's Studio 54 through May 27.