As the theater world is returning for in-person performances this fall, I’m most excited about the comedies that are coming to the New York theater scene. One such production is Robyn Bishop-Marin’s A Girl Far From Normal, coming to The Flea Theater for four performances November 11-14.
In this solo show, Bishop-Marin recounts her life experiences following the announcement that her husband of 32 years “wants to take a marriage vacation.” As her seemingly perfect life crumbles, she will take audiences through her journey of self-discovery in how to avoid dying from a broken heart. I called Bishop-Marin to hear her perspective as a newcomer to theater and which topics she wanted to address in her show.
Who do you envision playing you if your story is adapted to television or film?
My top gal would be Julianne Moore or Diane Lane. I love Leslie Mann, but she’s a little bit younger than I am. I do love her comedic performances.
As a business owner with a yoga studio, which skills are transferrable to working in theater?
I don’t know if you’ve taken yoga—almost everybody has these days—the yoga teacher talks and the students listen. I realized I’ve been on a stage, if you will, for the last 18 years, speaking in front of a group of people who happen to be yoga students. Through my classes, instead of teaching the awesomeness of poses, I always wove stories in. I also used music as an influence or to set the mood. My yoga teaching was a great trampoline when I jumped on a stage.
You’re new to the theater scene. How did you get into it?
I really got into this accidentally as I was trying to fill in evening spaces in my life. I signed myself up for random classes. I happened onto a class called “No Fear Acting.” The teacher went around the room and said, “Tell us your name and why you’re here.”
I said, “My name is Robyn. I’m here because it’s Tuesday.”
I wasn’t trying to be funny. It was a Tuesday night six years ago. After that class ended, they had another class called something like “Going Long” or “Standing Solo,” where you would write for 10 minutes and then recite what you wrote. After a six-week class, you cultivated a three to five-minute storytelling performance. We invited friends and family. After that class, I got invited to do the Vagina Monologues at a community college. I moved to New York and I took storytelling workshops, where I was monologuing my journal entries.
How did backyard performances help you develop your storytelling voice?[They] helped me to know in the humblest of ways if it was worthy of being heard, I guess. You know you live inside your own head. Everybody’s got stories. All these stories are based on true life. I would tell my girlfriends, “You’re never going to believe what happened last night!”
When I did a couple of backyard performances last year, hearing people laugh or [seeing them] cock their head to listen gave me the encouragement to go forward.
I like the secondary title of your production, “How to survive a stab wound to the heart and still make your morning meeting.” To me, that reflects this tightrope we walk between our personal and work challenges.
Absolutely! Your personal life can be going sideways and you still have to show up. I still had to open that yoga door. People were waiting for me. I still had to show up to family events and I had to pay my mortgage. You have to put things in compartments and figure that you can’t let your whole life be guided by this one stab wound. You know “It’s just a flesh wound” from Monty Python? I was like “I’m fine. It’s good;” “Yeah, I’m going to make lunch;” or “I’m still going out with you girls.”
I never liked the weakest link in my life to be the leader of the parade. You have to carry on. Perspective is my key word to that.
I understand you are looking to protagonists of your favorite movies as you tell your story. Who are some examples?[Those include] Diane Keaton from Something’s Gotta Give, Sally from When Harry Met Sally, Miss Elizabeth [Bennett] from Pride and Prejudice, Leslie Mann in So This Is 40, Annette Bening from American President, and definitely Julie Andrews from Sound of Music. I love the character and the gumption that they have. They can get their heart handed to them, but they somehow gather courage and tenacity.
I think the writers for these [films] must pull from real life because every single thing these women have done, I have done. I only watch movies that end happily. If they don’t end happily, I don’t watch them again. They’re not for me because I want a bow at the end. I want some hope.
What do you like about what other creatives are bringing to the rehearsal process in helping you realize your vision?
It is so wonderful to work with other people. [I get] ideas from my director for blocking and how we use the slides. Teams come up with something greater than what one person can do. It’s nice to get the project in a director’s hands and have his point of view, which has dovetailed so nicely with mine.
What would you like audiences to take away when you get to your premiere and tell your story?
My main goal is for them to walk out nodding their head a little bit, like “Oh, yeah, I’ve been there;” “I can do that;” or “I know how she feels.”
I want them to each take a doggy bag of understanding where I’ve been and they have been there themselves. Nobody is alone in this world. We all look different and have different lives, but we all live this one human existence [of emotions]: joy, sorrow, rock-bottom, despair, and ecstasy. I want them to feel connected. Maybe they’ll go to dinner and they’ll smile. That would be my greatest hope.