Katrina Lenk & ADINA VERSON
Explore the preparation process behind two of Broadway's most layered performances. Indecent ran on Broadway at The Cort Theatre from April 18, 2017 - August 6, 2017.
I was three minutes late to this shoot. That never happens. I'm usually 15 minutes early, but it was one of those days where the MTA decided to take a personal day. A 20 minute commute became an hour. An unscheduled subway transfer, a taxi stuck in traffic, and a jog later, I arrived at The Cort Theatre. I would photograph the stunningly brilliant Adina Verson and Katrina Lenk as they prepare for Rifkele and Menke, respectively.
Turns out I wasn't the only one late. The trains seemed to set everyone behind. I sat right next to the stage door and cooled down. Vibes of different Broadway shows are so diverse - with some, there's a stiffness - an absolute tight ship was being run. With this shoot happening the day before closing - the opposite was palpable. It was relaxed, giddy, but introspective. I can tell this show would be missed.
In fact - I personally would miss this show. As a Jewish artist, I saw a huge chunk of my personal self in this show. A sucker for story telling and tradition, I was hooked by Indecent. Those of you that didn't experience Indecent, playwright Paula Vogel explores a Yiddish play, "God of Vengeance" proven too extreme for audiences of 1922, especially containing a love scene between two women. The use of Yiddish is used liberally as well as the pulling of heart strings while portraying the extreme tragedy the Jewish community would experience during WWII.
In just 90 minutes, Indecent spoke a million truths. But it wouldn't last on Broadway for long.
Now, that doesn't mean it wasn't a hit for the community. It remains a heavily respected piece. But for some reason, ticket sales dipped in the middle of the summer - forcing producers to close the show. And miracle of miracles - the ticket sales spiked in response to the closing notice. According to Joshua Barone of the NYTimes, he wrote in about an interview with Daryl Roth, leading producer on Indecent, that "ticket sales have gone “way up,” to the point where some nights have had standing-room crowds." (Joshua Barone, NYTimes. 2017.)
"The stage is leaking," one stagehand said. "That's... not going to be good tomorrow when we pull up the stage."
"Yeah - I'm not sure the stage was built to withstand water for this long," another stagehand said.
At the conclusion of the play, a downpour of rain erupts on the stage of The Cort, prevailing in a visually stunning last moment.
I'm given the green light to head up to the actor's dressing room. A warm space, I introduce myself to the ladies - both of which have already started prepping.
"I was late today!" Katrina Lenk said. "I was on a train that just wouldn't go."
Her and I happened to be on the same train.
"All good," I said, relieved, and we began conversing about the show, their experience, and their preparation. "Let's start with physicality, Katrina. Where does Menke live for you?"
Not going to lie - I was nervous. These two ladies stole my heart on stage and I am a secret fanboy.
"Well - as you know - we all play a multitude of different roles. But for Menke, her butt is way out and she lives forward with her head and chest always diving into something. She's high anxiety."
I always love to know if any of these characters we know are based on anyone personal. Katrina admitted that her characters are "not based on anyone personal, but a conglomeration of people".
"Adina, what about you?" I ask.
Adina Verson, making her Broadway debut, begins to comb out her eyebrows and eyelashes. Her make up is simple, which is perfect for the earthier Rifkele.
"I go on stage and focus on a vocal warm up. It's chakra based. Katrina and I both share a bottle of apple cider vinegar for our voice."
"Yeah! And Yiddish is great to get the phlegm off the chords!" exclaims Katrina. We all then, as a chorus, show our best unvoiced velar fricative - or better known as the famously expressive throaty sound often heard in Yiddish and Hebrew. We all share a laugh.
"Tell me about your experience in all the different versions of Indecent. It's grown in so many different locations." I say. Indecent grew throughout Yale Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, and The Vineyard Theatre Off - Broadway, before finally landing at The Cort Theatre on Broadway.
"Throughout the growth of the show, it's taught me to trust myself and to let go of the feeling that I need control."
I relate to this statement. As an artist in NYC, there are so many different ways to lose yourself. Ever heard the term jaded? Jaded is when someone is faced with hardship and they revert to a passé or "over it" vibe to compensate with all of these emotions. Katrina Lenk and Adina Verson are the opposite of that; two incredible women sharing their artistry with us eight times a week. To piggyback off of what Adina said, I strongly believe in the statement: leap and the net will appear.
"How's your dressing room? Is it everything you wanted?
"It's cozy - we have some bugs, but it's cozy." Katrina said.
"And that's so nice they put you together in the same dressing room!" I said.
"Yeah, we requested each other! Well, at least I requested to be with her."
Katrina was in the bathroom at this moment, so she wasn't there to confirm that. But based on the ladies interaction with each other, it wouldn't surprise me if the feeling was mutual.
"What is one thing you absolutely can't live without before the performance?"
"Laundry!" said Adina! "My costumes get pretty smelly."
"Smudge proof lipstick," said Katrina as she applied her smudge proof lipstick. She's not the only actress on Broadway who requires that. If you read my experience with Charlotte d'Amboise, she says that if she doesn't wear smudge proof lipstick then it will appear everywhere. There's a good amount of romantic interaction with Katrina on stage, so it's a good investment.
And with that, they had their places call, which is technically half hour until showtime. The actors are on stage waiting to tell you the story of "God of Vengeance" in 1922 NYC when you enter The Cort Theatre.
The next day Indecent would close. And like Katrina's smudge proof lipstick, the memories will not soon be removed from the hearts of all who encountered Indecent.