The Leading Lady Club Began as a 54 Below Show, Now It's a Full-Length Play | Playbill

Playbill Goes Fringe The Leading Lady Club Began as a 54 Below Show, Now It's a Full-Length Play

Playwright Sarah Hogewood takes us through the development process of the Edinburgh Fringe show.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!

Sisterhood is an incredible thing. In a world where women are often marginalized from birth, made to shrink themselves in order to fit predetermined expectations of "proper" behavior, there is power in the ebullient communication that can occur between a group of women analyzing their lives.

Some sisterhoods are literal, formed in childhood, and carried through adolescence into nascent adulthood. Others are communal: work friends, neighbors, school chums, the kind of people who can deeply understand one aspect of your life because they've lived it beside you. Others are more fleeting: the women in the bathroom who hype you up during a particularly emotional night out, the stranger on the street who walks beside you in defiance of a nearby threat, never sharing a word while sharing in collective strength.

The immediate connection between women when existing together in space is powerful. The Leading Lady Club, written by Sarah Hogewood, explores that power through a quasi group therapy style vent session, starring four actors playing multiple different women at different points in their lives, ranging from a curious 4th grader to a wizened old woman. The show is an extension of the artists studio of the same name, which specializes in showcasing the true stories behind the experience of womanhood. 

Playbill connected with Hogewood to discuss the development of the show Stateside, and why it was important to her to bring the show overseas.

How long have you been working on The Leading Lady Club?
Sarah Hogewood:
Officially, since early fall of 2022, but my collaboration with the co-lead producer began earlier in the spring of that same year when she started asking me to perform as a singer in her 54 Below concert series by the same name.

So the show was partially inspired by the other programming of the studio?
I was writing a show called The Things I did While I was Waiting for You to Fall Back in Love with Me/The Ovary Play. And in the luckiest series of events, Caitlin McNeilage (the co-lead producer) read that piece and decided that she would trust me to write the play that she wanted to see. She said, "I want to produce some kind of variety show...a play about women's issues and #MeToo. And I want it to be short and make you think, but not be preachy."

I was so lucky that the play I was writing was somehow very that "vibe," so I had something to offer. That's when our collaboration on The Leading Lady Club play began. I was inspired by her title, and began conducting interviews because I was bored with my own limited perspective and now, with a producer fully on board, I knew we could hire more women so I could stop writing a "one woman show." I am also so inspired by Anna Deavere Smith and verbatim theatre—and that brought me back to Caitlin's original podcast/interview concept. Also, clown shows, Commedia del Arte Tradition/ "Lazzi"

Why did you want to present your show at the Edinburgh Fringe?
We made the kind of thing that we want to see more of...and now that I am the keeper of all of these women's stories, even if only one line made it in, I want to share it. We had a quick preview run in New York and people connected with it. Ultimately, if one person feels less alone in an experience after seeing the show, it's a success for me.

What’s been the most difficult part about performing in the Fringe?
Where do people warm up?! There is no space or time! Oh well, I am so glad this is not a musical!

What has been the most rewarding part about performing in the Fringe?
Connecting with people from all over the world. Especially and selfishly when it has been over something I wrote alone at my

What’s something you’ve learned about doing Fringe that you wish you knew going in?
We cut SO MUCH from the full script so that we could present something that you could take in in just 40 minutes. No regrets, but, I certainly have enjoyed the longer pieces that I have seen, too.

What are you hoping to get out of your Fringe experience?
FEEDBACK! Where else can you meet so many incredible artists from all over the world and see each other's work?!

And most of all, inspiration.

The Leading Lady Club plays Greenside at Infirmary Street through August 26. For more information, go here.

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