Published in KPBS On Air Magazine October 1996
Lisa Kron started out in straight theater (“mostly playing old ladies and next-door neighbors”), which is kinda funny, since she might have been the only Jewish lesbian in Lansing, Michigan, or maybe the only lesbian Jew.
“I always had a queer sensibility,” she admits. “I wasn’t pretty and I wasn’t getting much attention. So I developed my personality. I set out to be the funniest girl in the world.”
She parlayed her humor into a cottage industry, and this month, she’s featured at the La Jolla Playhouse in the world premiere of her latest multi-character monologue, “2.5 Minute Ride” (through October 27).
She’s been in San Diego before, with the acclaimed performance group, “The Five Lesbian Brothers,” of which she is a founding member. Her girlfriend Peggy is also one of the ‘Brothers.’ The group’s most recent collaborative work, “The Secretaries”, a story about “a cult of SlimFast-drinking, long-nailed secretaries,” won an Obie Award in New York. The Brothers’ book of humor will be published next year.
“We try to walk this interesting line,” the affable, 35 year-old Kron explains. “Something campy in style, with sight gags and goofy names, often has a dark emotional reality underneath.
“My own style is very different. The Brothers’ work is edgier and a little darker than mine, but in both, there’s the belief that by using humor, you can allow the audience to think about things they haven’t thought before. What’s really funny always has tragic elements.”
Unlike her prior monologues, “2.5 Minute Ride” deals with a real tragedy. It was inspired by a trip Kron took three years ago with her father, “a 72 year-old blind diabetic Holocaust survivor with a heart condition.” They visited his hometown in Germany and went to Auschwitz in Poland. In 1937, her father was rescued by “Kindertransport,” which spirited Jewish children out of Germany.
Kron intersperses descriptions of this poignant and heart-wrenching journey with highly comic descriptions of her family’s annual trek to the Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, where her father loves to ride the roller coaster. The outrageous coaster-ride lasts the titular 2.5 minutes.
“We laughed at everything in our family,” says Kron. And in this piece, you can see why. She describes her family oxymoronically as “Midwestern bohemians.”
Kron’s mother, a Presbyterian convert, saves everything, including egg cartons, for the Senior Center. She lives by the motto: Never go anywhere you have to wear pantyhose. Lisa’s grandmother buys tons of Avon products, because she feels sorry for the Avon lady. Her father would prefer to live in a stainless steel house with a drain in the middle. And when her brother introduces his fiancée to Lisa and Peggy, Lisa “wanted them to know we accept them even though they’re straight.”
Kron loves to turn the universe on its ear.
In her previous monologues, “101 Humiliating Stories,”, “All My Hopes and Dreams” and “Facing Life’s Problems”, she focused on matters of sexuality and the exclusion of minority groups from popular entertainment. Kron calls her work “womanist lesbian humor,” but adds, “I never write to make a political point. I’m more interested in writing that asks questions than answers them.”
When the Best of Manhattan ’93 Awards were handed out, Kron was named Best Stand-Up Comedienne. She’s performed her pieces in prestigious New York venues, including Lincoln Center’s Serious Fun! Festival, P.S. 122, La Mama, the Bottom Line and the New York Theatre Workshop, as well as non-mainstream regional locations (such as Sushi in San Diego). The Village Voice found her to be “intimate, disarmingly unpretentious and decisively on-target with her observations of life.”
“When you do autobiographical solo performance work,” says the 12-year veteran of the genre, “the goal is not to tell about yourself, but to use that to illuminate universal experience. This new work in progress is specifically about my father and what happened to him, the loss he suffered. But in a much larger sense, it concerns how humor and tragedy are present in every experience. I know from early [New York] readings that it affects people; they see their own family in it. It’s about loss and letting go, and wanting to take care of your parents…
“While being respectful of the Holocaust, I’m also interested in breaking into the reverence. It’s become increasingly impossible to talk about it in any meaningful way. It didn’t carry the weight in those people’s minds that it does now. It’s interesting for me to see this person who lived through these major events, but he’s just a regular guy with a day-to-day life… My father wasn’t in a camp himself. So he has a lot of optimism, a philosophical view of things he might not have been able to retain if he had been in a camp.”
Maybe that freed her to use comedy to tell his story. “It’s very important to me that there’s humor in it,” the writer says of “2.5 Minute Ride”. But she still treats her subject with respect; she rejected a friend’s suggested title of “Holocoaster”.
When her father attended an early reading, he reportedly “laughed his head off.” Both parents will be here for the La Jolla production. And Kron is glad. “I feel this piece is a tribute to my family.”
©1996 Patté Productions Inc.