Stars Behind The Stars: Lynn Spector ’15
BY Robbie Armstrong, May 8, 2020
Stars Behind The Stars is a bi-weekly series featuring theatre makers behind the scenes.
This week we sat down with Dramaturgy alumna Lynn Spector ’15 and discussed her work. Spector is an Aries who has worked on Broadway shows such as Moulin Rouge and Beetlejuice. Most recently she served as the Assistant Director for the Second National Tour of The Color Purple.
Tell me about your first time in Theatre.
Lynn Spector: That’s a tough thing to pinpoint. I started tap dancing when I was five, and did my eighth grade musical, but I think I did a play in first grade... I even acted out a monologue from Sleeping Beauty for my parents when I was really young…I used to act out the first scene with the three fairies for my parents. My favorite part was Merryweather’s magic spell speech—which I still remember—because I was that kid.
What is your sign and how does it appear in your work?
LS: I’m an Aries, but I’m on the cusp with Taurus. Someone recently told me that even though I’m on the cusp, based on my birth date, time, and location I’m definitely an Aries. I feel the idea of the cusp fits me because of the liminal space it occupies, and liminality is so big in dramaturgy and theatre in general. I deal a lot with words and that’s an Aries trait—I also use a lot of words because as a dramaturg I communicate in many ways. I love talking about passions, which are prominent for fire signs, both what I’m passionate about and hearing what other people are passionate about.
Tell me about your relationship with Alex Timbers and what you find unique about it?
LS: That was a connection thanks to Columbia. In my third year when we had to do internships I kept thinking about who I wanted to work with. I remember always being excited about Alex Timbers’ work so [Professor] Christian Parker connected me with him. As a result, my internship ended up being working on Here’s Hoover with Alex and the late wonderful Michael Friedman. I was so lucky that he took a chance on me as an Assistant Director. It was such a funny and quirky show that would have esoteric jokes about economics followed by a fart joke. It was a funky little downtown gem that only ran for a month. One thing I love about Alex is that he thinks dramaturgically and it’s hard to find that kind of artist. In addition to being a director he’s been a writer and producer, so he has a multifaceted approach and I’ve learned so much from him. I later moved on to assist him on Permission (at MCC) and then was fortunate enough to work with him on Beetlejuice.
How has your Columbia education prepared you for a career in theatre?
LS: I learned to approach dramaturgy from multiple angles, allowing me to have more tools in my toolkit. It’s not just a prescriptive script doctoring world which was part of my preconceived notion of it prior to Columbia. Each professor gave me a different point of view from which to explore a show. Whether it was being rigid about structure, or being more character driven or even looking at the dramaturgy of the page, my classes at Columbia gave me different lenses to look at a piece of art. Every show needs a slightly different approach. I also should mention that I’m still working a considerable amount right now. I guess a pandemic is a good time for playwrights to write plays and musicals, and many of those people have been reaching out to me for virtual dramaturgy. I’ve worked with clients over the phone, Skype, and Google hangouts as a freelance dramaturg for years, so this time actually isn’t that much of an adjustment for me.
What type of theatre inspires you most?
LS: I learned in undergrad the directive from the Roman Horace that theatre should teach and/or delight. The most exciting theatre for me has both of those parts. Teaching without delighting can patronize an audience and delighting without teaching can be wonderful, but it doesn’t fill the space entirely the way I believe theatre can. I also love humor and slightly quirky theatre pieces. Most recently I saw the revival of Company the last night before Broadway shut down.
No way, I was there too, on the left side of the mezzanine!
LS: I was on the right side! I loved it. It modernized the narrative (such as it is) and gave a wonderful take on a piece that could have been seen as dated. “Ladies Who Lunch” became this indictment of Bobbie and her way of life, because she was a “lady who lunched,” which you don’t get if the role isn’t played by a woman. The song was then a linchpin for the show to turn and propel Bobbie into singing “Being Alive.” That arc and connection did not exist for me with prior productions, even though I also loved the Raúl Esparza revival. As a woman in my thirties, I felt that piece emotionally in a completely different way with it now centered on a woman in her thirties. I went back to my libretto when I went home and realized the question “What do you want to get married for?” is such a different question to a woman, especially a 35 year old woman. There’s a different societal pressure on a 35 year old bachelor than on a 35 year old bachelorette. I loved how this revival mined the show and brought to light what was already there in such a compelling way.
I'd love to know more about what kind of theatre you think will be most important once this pandemic is over. What type of art do you think the world needs right now?
LS: I think we need to teach and delight. We need theatre to teach us to be compassionate and to teach us about what this world is. We need to be delighted to cope with the 24-hour news cycle of sickness and mortality. I love theatre of connection, across the stage to the audience. Even with all my early theatre experience, my first encounter with theatre was as an audience member, so I always think about how the show is connecting to the audience. Connective theatre is also going to be really important. I believe we’ll need to feel like we are connected again.
If you could be any famous child, who would you be and why?
LS: This is the one question I prepared for...and I’m not remembering who I prepared for it… oh! I’d want to be Laura Dern because she took the opportunities afforded to her by being the child of famous parents and used them well. She has made an independant name for herself while respecting that the opportunities were more easy for her to attain.
I didn’t know she was the child of famous people.
LS: That’s what I love about her. She made her own career.
What’s your favorite play/musical?
LS: I keep a running top five favorite musicals, but it’s constantly shifting. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a sentimental favorite. Side Show was the first show that made me cry in a good way. Guys And Dolls is number 3. It’s a perfect classic musical. The Scottsboro Boys is another I love because it so embodies “teach and delight”. The electric chair tap dance was so brilliant and dramaturgically important in that show. It really showcased musical theatre at its best. And last, I will always have a special place in my heart for Beetlejuice, because it was the first Broadway show I worked on.