Thomas Burns Scully
OnStage New York Critic
I don’t normally take a look at LA Theatre. Like most New York snobs I believe that the town is full of shallow waiters dyed orange in the hope of becoming reality TV stars. I’ve never been, I just assume. Of course, like every snobbish belief, I can’t possibly be right. There are too many people I categorically respect who live in LA, too many actors, writers and so on who produce excellent work. And since when did New York, the city that produced Donald Trump, get to be any authority on authenticity? So today I’m looking at LA Theatre, and a show that’s currently on the rise called ‘Skeleton Key’.
‘Skeleton Key’ is a one-woman show, currently in development at the Lounge Theatre with Walk A Mile Productions. At the centre of it all is Lois-Amber Toole. A graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the oldest English-Speaking acting school in the world. She is the latest in a long line of Brits making a name for themselves in the states. In the UK she worked with the esteemed National Youth Theatre, and landed roles in major British television shows like ‘Vera’. When opportunity presented, she made a break for the New World and, after a year in New York, set up shop in LA. She is the writer and performer of ‘Skeleton Key’. I sat down and chatted with her about her show.
“‘Skeleton Key’ tells the story of a bright young girl who lost herself in a boy,” says Toole. “At the Academy we were asked: ‘What is something you don’t want anyone to know about you?’ Enter Skeleton Key. It was an emotional catharsis to say the least. [The show] is based on real life events during my turbulent time in high school, recalling relationship abuse, peer pressure and cyber-bullying.” Clearly a story for our times. Director Debra De Liso (Head of Walk A Mile Productions) worked on it from its inception and immediately saw its potential. She began the development process with Toole, pushing her to make the story more personal, to go further, to be fearless. “Of course it was difficult work, but then it always is if you’re making something better. I’m not afraid of hard graft. And the results are worth it, it is, no question, a better show now than it was then.”
Being a resident of tinsel-town, Lois is, of course, no stranger to working on film. She has even begun adapting ‘Skeleton Key’ in to a film called ‘Fairy Face’. Like every actor today she has a fair share of short films and web-series tucked neatly under her belt. Her resume also includes a leading role in underground cult indie-flick ‘Drunken Butterflies’ and featured appearances in BuzzFeed’s ubiquitous online content feed. But, like with so many actors, the theatre always draws her back. “I feel very protective of Theatre. I grew up with theatre in England, my parents took me to see plays, pantomimes, ballets, musicals, more than they ever took me to the movies. These are memories that I cherish. I don’t think there is a more fulfilling feeling than storytelling on stage, its magic.”
From what I have seen so far of ‘Skeleton Key’, and Lois-Amber Toole, I can’t help but be impressed. First of all, the gumption required to move continents is not gumption to be taken lightly, let alone the organization involved. Second, her show is powerful, personal, and subversive. In a world crying out for female voices in the theatre, Lois’ writing is a welcome harmony in the choir. Third, Toole is one hell of an actress. I don’t say it lightly. The stereotype of the LA actress is ditzy, superficial, and in possession of as much depth as a ketchup sachet. Toole, however, is gutsy, sharp, and yet has an endearing vulnerability. Her career today is worth your attention, and the coming years will make it a must-see. If you are an LA resident, a visit to the Lounge Theatre next year is definitely in order. Mark your calendars.
For details about ‘Skeleton Key’ stay up to date by following Lois’ Facebook page (https://goo.gl/pcDUQl), Twitter (@loisamber), Instagram (loisamber) and her official website (loisambertoole.com)
This preview was written by Thomas Burns Scully, a New York based writer, actor and musician. His work has been lauded by TimeOut NY, the New York Times, BAFTA US and other smaller organizations too numerous to mention. His writing has been performed on three continents. He is generally considered to be the thrifty person’s Renaissance man.
Follow him on Facebook (as Thomas Burns Scully), and on Twitter (@ThomasDBS)