Education dramaturg Ted Sod and Emily Ruderman speak with Lindsay Mendez, Carra Patterson and Sas Goldberg about Significant Other.
Ted Sod: Emily, my colleague, and I made a list of questions for the three of you. First question is: How do you personally define the term “significant other”?
Lindsay Mendez: The person you want to go through your life with, to be there for you during the good and the bad times.
Sas Goldberg: Your partner in life. Sometimes I think it doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship. It can just be your pal.
Carra Patterson: That main partner in your life, be it boyfriend, husband, girlfriend. The person that you love. Your best friend. That’s what it means to me. At first glance, I saw this play as being about these characters who are tired of being twenty-something singles in New York and who are ready for that life partner.
LM: It’s interesting. I have family in the Midwest and when I was visiting I told them what the play was called and they said, “Oh, is it about gay people?”
LM: Yes. Immediately.
SG: I would never have even thought that…
LM: Me either! “Is it what I think it’s about?” That’s what my boyfriend’s grandmother said.
TS: In terms of your characters, is Jordan your significant other in this play?
LM: Yes, he’s definitely my significant other. Until I find another one. But, to me, he is still my significant other in a way. He’s my significant other and then I meet my husband.
SG: I don’t think my character, Kiki, is Jordan’s significant other. I think Kiki is on the hunt to find a man. That’s how this play starts, she talks about how she’s looking for someone to define her and she finds Conrad.
TS: You said Kiki wants to find someone to “define herself.” Do you think that women still think that way in the era of feminism?
SG: I know so many women who are self-sufficient, but there still is this weird checklist that exists in their heads. You have to find the guy and get married and have kids before it’s too late. I consider myself a relatively young person and my doctor recently said, “Soon you’re going to be high-risk for pregnancy” and I thought: What? When did that happen?
LM: For most women, there’s still this nagging thing inside that says this is what you’re supposed to do. I think that’s so relevant for all three of our characters. None of us really think of marriage as the thing we were going to do. We don’t see each other having the quintessential wedding and doing the cookie cutter thing. We think it’s BS until we’re in the middle of it and then all of a sudden we’re 100% on board.
TS: Do you feel like there is a special connection between gay men and straight women?
LM: For sure.
TS: Do you think that’s because you all work in the theatre?
SG: When I was growing up, my mom, who was not in the theatre, had a lot of gay friends. I had so many “uncles” around our house.
LM: I think there’s something comforting about a male energy that’s nonthreatening. You can totally be yourself around a man who you’re not worried wants to sleep with you. It’s nice to be with a male energy as opposed to a female energy. It’s very different. Gay men are still men. There’s also, for me, something about being picked as a gay man’s favorite that still feels like you’ve been chosen. You want a man to choose you, no matter what. That’s validating in some way.
SG: There could sometimes be a competitive nature that exists between two women. For instance, if one of your friends gets pregnant and you don’t. That doesn’t exist with a gay man.
CP: For me, the first phrase that popped into my head was “kindred spirit.” I just feel like we get each other and the journey. I think gay men represent everything we’re missing in our straight male relationships. You get companionship, understanding and sensitivity. Not that straight men aren’t emotional. It just flows. You get each other in a way that sometimes your girlfriends don’t -- so it’s nice to be with a gay man. My best friend in college was gay and he was the one who bought me my first pair of black pumps.
TS: Did you feel like that was a mentor relationship?
CP: It was! I was in college and trying to figure out what kind of woman I wanted to be and he was really integral in helping me. I remember him saying, “Now whatever you decide to do, you’re going be classy and look your best.”
TS: Have you two had somebody like that in your lives?
LM: A million.
SG: Oh, yeah. And everyone is still in my life now. “Kindred spirits” is really a great definition for the gay man/straight woman connection. I wouldn’t say every gay man and a straight woman are bound to connect, but when you do find that person, it can be great.
TS: Do you feel like you have to invest in a relationship like that or does it “just flow” as Carra said?
SG: There’s a certain level of investment in any relationship. You need to choose to listen and care about each other, remember things. But that’s in a mother-daughter relationship, too. Every relationship takes an investment.
LM: I agree. But, we’re around gay men all the time. I don’t think that everyone gets the chance to have the sort of relationships we get to cultivate. I do think television has really fantasized it to the point where now everyone wants a gay best friend.
SG: A G.B.F.
TS: Because of shows like Will & Grace?
LM: And Modern Family and all the Bravo TV shows.
TS: This play is about finding your significant other in New York City -- is that difficult?
CP: It is and it isn’t. I think there are a lot of beautiful, attractive, great people here, a lot of young professionals, which is the blessing and the curse.
LM: I don’t think people come here looking for love, they move here because they want to be successful.
CP: So it’s hard for people to slow down and see each other. There’s a lot of dating, but, when you’re ready for that real connection, that’s when you can find yourself getting lonely. If you’re ready for your significant other, that can be a bit harder in New York City because everything moves so fast.
SG: My experience is different because I met my husband in college. I moved to New York with a boyfriend and got engaged when I was 26, so I never experienced that part of the city. I have so many friends that are single and I know it’s tough. New York can be very lonely. But that feeling can exist anywhere. This play is a comedy, but it’s also very real and brings up a lot of emotions.
LM: I think that’s what’s so great about Josh’s writing. It goes to a place that is so scary and honest that it makes your skin crawl a little bit. As an actor, that’s so thrilling to get to explore.
Emily Ruderman: Where do you think your characters’ friendship with Jordan will be in five years?
CP: I think that Vanessa will probably be divorced and will be very close to Jordan. I feel like they might cling to each other the most in five years. She’s totally a divorcée. Jordan is her best friend and they will be able to relate to each other.
LM: Laura will have children and he’ll be an “uncle” to them. They’ll still be in each other’s lives. There will be some things to be worked out, but they’ll be really close.
SG: I think Kiki moves to the South and has tons of kids. We decided that she’s from New York City, but her husband is from Kentucky, so she fantasizes about this house with cherry blossoms and she moves. I think what Jordan says in Act II is true, he’s like the court jester. He’ll come and visit and she’ll parade her kids around him, but I don’t think they’ll be as close. I think she gets very wrapped up in her own life.
TS: Jordan has this great relationship with his grandmother. Do any of you have that kind of relationship with your grandmother?
SG: I do have grandmother, she is where I get some of my feistiness from, but I wish she lived close by like Jordan's grandmother in the play. A few of my grandparents passed away when I was younger and, honestly, I look back now and wish I knew them better.
CP: Both of my grandmothers passed away, but I was particularly close with my father’s mother. I spent a lot of time with her because my parents were in high school during the day. She was really badass. I was in love with her. I hate to sound cliché but she is very close to me even still. I think of her often and a lot of times she ends up being an inspiration for any character I play. She was just a fascinating woman.
LM: Both of my grandmas have passed away, but I’m close to my boyfriend’s grandma. I feel grandparents call your parents out on their bullshit, which feels really good as a kid. They are an ally in that way. The relationship Jordan has with his grandmother in this play totally tears me up because it makes me miss mine so much.
Significant Other begins previews May 22 at the Laura Pels Theatre. For more information and tickets, please visit our website.
2014-2015 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Significant Other, Upstage