After taking Lauren Weedman's order, a barista at the BoDo Caffe D'Arte calls her co-workers into a corner and whispers something to them. Weedman doesn't notice and as she steps away from the counter to wait for her drink, she spots someone she hasn't seen for a while and goes over to say hello. When she returns to the counter for her espresso-heavy beverage, the smiling young woman hands it to her and excitedly says, "You were on Reno 911 and Arrested Development, right? I loved you in those shows."
That Los Angeles-based Weedman is recognized in Boise isn't totally surprising. The performances of her 2007 solo play, Bust, at Boise Contemporary Theater were hugely successful, as were those of her follow-up solo play No... You Shut Up, commissioned by BCT. She was at the coffee shop in BoDo during a several-day visit to the Treasure Valley to gather material for Boise: You Don't Look a Day Over 149, her newest--and most Boise-centric--work for BCT, which runs Saturday, Sept. 21, and Saturday, Sept. 28.
But the brilliant comedic actor lives somewhere in the in-between. She is both unknown and known; and, although she hasn't had a career-launching role (compared to Melissa McCarthy's turn as Megan in Bridesmaids), in the past decade, she has regularly appeared in a handful of films and a number of high-profile TV shows like The Daily Show, Reno 911, New Girl, Arrested Development, the VH1 I Love The... franchise, and HBO shows Curb Your Enthusiasm, Hung and True Blood. She's been doing theater even longer.
Yet she was visibly surprised at being recognized--and, in a rare moment, almost speechless. Outside on the patio, however, the loquacious Weedman recovered, speaking in staccato as the ideas came faster than she could express them.
"I never get that. No one has ever, ever asked me for an autograph except for after shows sometimes," Weedman said. "I don't think I'm famous enough. I'm surprised she recognized me from Arrested Development. Every time I see myself in anything, I'm like, 'That was short.'"
At 44, Weedman's personal life is in a kind of limbo as well. When she spoke with Boise Weekly, her husband had been working out of town all summer, so it had been left to her to care for their 4-year-old son, Leo, a tall, bright, inquisitive towhead with the energy of a thousand suns. In shows like No... You Shut Up and the award-winning Bust, Weedman made audiences privy to her frenetic, conflicted feelings about marriage and children. Her gut-wrenching revelations of fear and feelings of inadequacy allowed for a connection between actor and audience, blurring the boundaries of the fourth wall and making her plays feel more like authentic--albeit uncomfortable--conversations. But once Weedman was a wife and a mother, experiencing the magic and the mundanity of both, she seemed to begin turning the microscope outward.
The idea for Boise, You Don't Look a Day Over 149 came on the heels of a 10-week run (with eight shows per week) of People's Republic of Portland, commissioned by Portland Center Stage. It wasn't a Portlandia remix but it was a look at the peccadilloes particular to Portland. And it was quite different from Weedman's previous works. That shift wasn't universally adored. Portland Monthly Mag wrote that it lacked "stakes and a narrative arc," as well as the "vulnerability, personal exploration, transformation, and recurring cast" of No... You Shut Up.
But by all accounts, People's Republic was a success and a learning experience.
"It did ferociously [well]," Weedman said. "It was like Bust was here."
It was also exhausting. Weedman said she doesn't want to do long runs anymore; what she does want is to repeat the fun, comedic, improvisational nature of People's Republic. And although she was only weeks away from debuting Boise, You Don't Look... during her August visit, she hadn't yet pinpointed much about her newest creation, other than its name.
But the same day the barista recognized her, she had plans to start doing research on Boise for Boise. She had plans to visit a lesbian couple and meet their new baby, have dinner with a friend and take her son to the Western Idaho Fair. The 100-degree-plus temps and smoky skies prompted a few people to urge Weedman to forgo the Fair, even though it would be a rare opportunity to see such a diverse range of the area's citizenry, all in one place. That was certainly an impetus for going, but Weedman had a more important reason.
"I promised Leo I'd take him," she said.
Although at one point, after meeting a particularly engaging ride operator, Weedman muttered, "I wish I'd brought my notebook," the afternoon's outing--complete with a visit to the petting zoo, and standing in the hot sun as she watched Leo ride a (shaded) merry-go-round for what seemed like an hour--was mostly about spending time with her son.
Motherhood is no longer the big, bad unknown for Weedman. It's now a big part of who she is. And, in some way, it's how People's Republic and Boise came to be: Weedman has been looking for a new home.
"I can't raise a kid in L.A.," she said, matter-of-factly.
But Weedman won't make a decision on that right away. She can't--a project she was working on may have been greenlit and it may be the thing that propels her into stardom. Not that she's too worried about that.
"People say it to me all the time: 'I've seen you, I just don't know where. But I know I've seen you in something.' That's cool," Weedman said. "I'll take that on my tombstone: Famous Somewhere."