Laura Stracko Franks Talks About "Bad Jews" and Life After Playhouse on the Square


Laura Stracko Franks
  • Laura Stracko Franks

You can't get attached to Playhouse on the Square company members, they'll only break you're heart. Here for a minute and gone is the nature of the beast. And when they're good, you want them to spread it around. Still, I was pretty thrilled when I heard that Laura Stracko Franks was coming back to Memphis to perform in the play Bad Jews.  

Franks has been a favorite in shows ranging Hairspray and the 25th Annual Putnam Co. Spelling Bee, to August: Osage County and A Midsummer Night's Dream (the Opera). Although I didn't care much for Circuit's most recent staging a Jacques Brel, it was worth sitting trough some turbulence just to hear her sing "My Death."  

Intermission Impossible: So, I'm a big fan Penny Pingleton. Catch me up. What all have you been doing since you left Memphis? 

Laura Stracko Franks: Right after Playhouse I did a quick show in Michigan, and then I went to New York and the first show I booked was a national tour, so I left right away. And then I was on the road and doing regional stuff all around the country since then, jobbing in and out of New York. I haven’t really stopped, so this feels almost like coming home, because I spent so much time here and stayed here. Everywhere else I’ve lived I’ve come and gone so quickly that when I come back here it feels like a break, which is weird because I’ve worked harder here than anywhere else.

Intermission Impossible: What are some of shows you’ve been doing?

I did a national tour of Damn Yankees where I was actually cast by Allison Frank, who is a former Playhouse on the Square intern. I’ll never forget, I went into the room and she said, “Ah, you’re a Playhouse person.” Yep. And she’s called me in for a bunch of stuff since then, so it was great to have that connection in the City. That felt right.

Intermission Impossible: I bet. 

I’ve been performing regionally doing shows like Marvelous Wonderettes, and Rent, and Great American Trailer Park Musical, and I did a quick Christmas Carol tour through a theater up in New Hampshire. And I’ve also been performing in New York and doing Cabarets which, unless you are on the Broadway, is the best way to be seen. Of course I have goals, but I’m in no hurry. I’m not going to put a timeline on my career.

Intermission Impossible: Well, while you’re waiting for your career to happen it sounds like you’ve been having a pretty good one.

Yeah. Which is interesting, I do. I was in a workshop and somebody said something that really spoke to me: The hustle never stops. And it’s stuck with me. I’m constantly thinking about what’s next. As soon as you get a job in this industry you’ve got to start thinking about something else.

Intermission Impossible: That’s why I got out early. I realized I just didn’t have that kind of hustle in me.

It’s a pain in the ass, I’ll tell you. But I’ve learned I have to have the two parts where I have the creative part, and the business part where I develop my brand.

Intermission Impossible: So, let’s talk just a bit about Bad Jews, an angry, verging on savage, but also often funny play.

All those adjectives describe it perfectly. People need to know they’re allowed to laugh at the show. I think some people see the title and are like “ugh!” They’re put off by it.

Intermission Impossible: The title is deliberately provocative. The writer wants you to respond from the gut before you have all the information.

It’s really satisfying getting to do this show. There’s something really cathartic about just getting to fight and tell the truth for an hour and a half. Joshua Harmon’s script is so well written. I've heard him interviewed and he writes like he talks. And, at the end of the day it’s a story about family.

Intermission Impossible: So “Bad Jews” describes what?

It’s about how the characters view each other. My character, for example, is very traditional and conservative and the other characters are more liberal. And we’re all like, if you don’t do it my way, it’s the wrong way. Which is really common in all religion and politics. It’s really timely. 

Bad Jews tells the story of Daphna Feygenbaum who reunites with her cousins following the death of the family patriarch. A vicious fight breaks out over who is most deserving of their grandfather's Chai necklace and things are said that can't be easily taken back.

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