Kitchen Sink Drama – An English Woman in New York – Part One

Laura Hooper is an English Actress working and having a jolly good time in New York.
Here she writes for Actor Hub as An English Woman In New York and how to take bites out of the Big Apple before it swallows you whole.
Find out more about Laura by visiting her website
When people ask me why I moved to New York, I often answer “adventure”, which isn’t strictly true…
I’ve certainly had an adventure since I moved here nearly four years ago, but the honest answer is “to make life happen, instead of letting it happen to me”. I was feeling a little stuck as a working actress in London and it was time to do something bold. I had never even been to The Big City when I found the words leaping out of my mammoth mouth that I’d shake things up by studying acting again, but this time in New York.
I knew three people there, a writer I’d worked with a few years back, my hairdresser (I know, handy right, girls? especially at New York prices!) and a woman I’d met in a bar.
What was I thinking…?!
Four years later I have a one woman show I’ve toured internationally, a short film in distribution, a produced radio play, a full length play in pre-production, a bunch of wonderful agents and a penchant for gin martinis.
I felt the fear and did it my way in the City So Nice They Named It Twice. (Cripes, I hope I don’t have to pay the Sinatra Estate royalties for that sentence!)

Part 1 – Kitchen Sink Drama.

Photo Credit: MORA Theater via cc
After I’d moved in with the swell gal I’d met in a bar (now a dear friend), had my barnet sorted by my hairdresser from London, I met up with the writer chap from years back, Mark O’Neil.
We shared our tales of insanity from the City That Never Sleeps and discussed how we had to make the most of the opportunity that we had here. We decided we had come so far uprooting ourselves from the safety of our home comforts, we should DO THINGS THAT SCARE US (easier to say after a coupla cosmos I must say – or was it?!)
The part I had played in London that had scared me the most to was a one woman monologue written by the uber talented O’Neil called “CRUMBLE”.
It was a 20 minute piece in a new writing series which I terrifyingly got through back in 2005. The character Sylvie is an eccentric, cooking fanatic and a fantasist, from a little village in Chesterfield, who would have no place in at all in The City That Never Cooks. So we thought it might be fun to see what sort of a reaction she might get from these ever social New Yorkers.
After specializing in site specific theatre with the brilliant Teatro Vivo as an artistic associate for 5 years, I suggested the only place we could stage this play would be in a kitchen in people’s homes. Of course, we didn’t know ONE person who had enough space to house the show but did we let that stop us. No.
Scary stuff
Before you could say “I’ll have a pastrami on rye to go, hold the gherkins!” I’d come up with a concept that meant an hour length show (half improvised half scripted), found enough perfect homes to perform in and a collected some weird and wonderful recipes to feed to our hungry audience.
I had created a show to be proud of but was riddled with doubt and anxiety. I often found myself in front of a mirror, having to talk myself into it, listing the people that believed in me, even if I didn’t. That got me out of the house a number of times!
I learnt a lot from this first run; New Yorkers loved Sylvie, were keen interactors and are thrilled by site specific theatre. There isn’t a huge amount of it out here, so CRUMBLE seemed to be a refreshing alternative show to more traditional evenings out in a theatre.
There was demand for more CRUMBLE, so I sourced more exquisite homes and yet again donned Sylvie’s cat apron. We invited press, which unnerved me but I knew it was time.
Opening night in the upscale Upper West Side and I had to handle two journalists, a cameraman and a photographer – which in an intimate audience of 20 was rather daunting to say the least! But by the end of this run I had a full page article in NY Post, I was interviewed by the Huffington Post, a “good odds” pick in Time Out New York and a number of interviews and reviews in smaller publications.
Off the back of this I was invited to perform at the inaugural Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival in Northern Ireland, had a sellout run in London and had the pleasure to be interviewed for an hour on BBC Radio’s NY Talks.
I am about to embark upon a fourth run of CRUMBLE in New York this summer.
Am I still frightened?
After all, I’ve now performed in over 15 kitchens, had incredible feedback and support from peers and mentors and been interviewed nationally and internationally… The answer is yes.
The “what if’s” in my head still scream for attention. But when the doubts raise their ugly heads I have a top tip to fall back on:
I think of the ever inspiring Daniel Kitson. Who during one of his sell out shows at BAM found himself in a bit of a jam… In the middle of an excellently funny and poignant moment he had to run offstage to avoid a severe gastric explosion. He handled it brilliantly and hilariously and this potentially horrific event proved to only enhance an already outstanding show.
So now when the nerves set in I ask myself what’s the worst that could happen? I might “go potty” in someone’s kitchen in front of a bunch of strangers and then I giggle and say to myself – so what?!
For more information on CRUMBLE, to find out if its coming to a kitchen near you and for tickets in NYC visit:
For more information on The English Woman in New York visit:
An English Woman in New York