“This is a play about a woman, written by a woman, and directed by a woman. The importance of that should not be lost on anyone.”Dan Foster, NYU Tisch at Strasberg alumnus
Laura Holland first came in contact with Paige Esterly during their time at Tisch. What started out as Laura reaching out to Paige with an interest to read some of the plays she had written suddenly evolved into a relationship imbued with artistic synergy. “When I first read The Torso, I thought, ‘I have to make this play happen,’” Laura recalls. And so she did. Laura invited several of her friends over to her apartment to read through Esterly’s work. “There are so many readings post-grad,” Tristan Campbell says. “But this script was immediately recognized by all of us as something with a lot of potential.”
The Torso follows twenty-something Danica during her move to New York to attempt a career in music. Her relationship with her best friend Mary becomes strained as she finds herself not able to keep up with Mary’s ability to “adult,” so to speak. During this already stressful period, Danica inexplicably begins to find pieces of mannequins around her apartment. This leads Danica into a downward spiral, which raises a great deal of alarm within her circle of friends. The Torso exists where thriller meets coming-of-age and seeks to challenge its audience to rethink the ways in which we grow into ourselves.
In producing the play, Laura found herself walking a tightrope of sorts. “A post grad budget is tough,” she says. “What I am proud of is that Paige and I have funded this project ourselves.” She goes on to describe the ways in which her community of artists rallied around her as she picked up extra shifts at coffee shops and hosted fundraising events at bars in Brooklyn to fund The Torso. Much of this community is centered around Strasberg. “Everyone in the cast studied at Strasberg,” she says, beaming with pride.
Two of those alumni are Tristan Campbell and Dan Foster, who have been working on The Torso since its inception at Laura’s apartment. “This is a play about a woman, written by a woman, and directed by a woman. The importance of that should not be lost on anyone,” Foster said. Both Tristan and Dan express the joy they’ve found in working on The Torso, specifically because of the deep relationships they’ve had with each other during their time at Strasberg. Campbell adds, “To be able to feel comfortable playing off of another actor’s choice because you understand the look they’re giving you from the years you’ve known each other – that’s a special gift.”
Looking back on the rehearsal process she led, Laura realizes it was her foundation at Strasberg that enabled her to work with her actors in such a nuanced manner. “It’s easy to come into a rehearsal with an idea of what a scene needs to look like, but magic happens when you trust your actors and give them room to make discoveries,” she says. Foster interjects, “The relaxation process is no joke. You’ve got to be relaxed or else your work will suffer.” “I am so grateful for my training at Strasberg,” Holland says. “[and] I feel blessed to have found creative compatibility with someone and we plan on working on many more plays together in the future.”
“Everyone in the cast studied at Strasberg.”Laura Holland, NYU Tisch at Strasberg alumna and director of The Torso
The Torso ran as part of the DreamUp Festival at Theatre for the New City from September 6-16. Strasberg alumni Laura Holland, Tristan Campbell, Dan Foster, Isabella Pisacane, and Ruthie Ofrasio were involved in this production. More info on Laura can be found at lauraholland.info.