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Rachel Bailit goes candid in one-woman show.

May 23, 2010

Rachel Bailit is funny, which kept her out of a television project. “I was pitching a TV show with a mutual friend and this producer at Sony. The producer said he didn’t care about the project, but wanted to see me on stage doing standup. And I said, ‘I’m really not a standup,’ but there was something so convincing about this man.”

Rachel Bailit

Bailit (General Hospital, NYPD Blue, Desperate Housewives) says the producer put her in touch with Emmy-winning writer Sherry Coben (Hot Hero Sandwich, Kate & Allie). “Sherry and I met for months, getting to know each other, sharing my family history.”

Bailit expected to get back a standup routine. “Sherry said, ‘Why would I give you standup material when you’re an actress?’ And that’s how Sugar Happens was born.”

Sugar Happens is a one-woman show about a nice, buxom Jewish girl from New England who heads to Hollywood to make it big. “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had as an actress. I trained for so many years and I never really had a ‘piece’ that I could act in. I had lines here, scenes here, a couple days here. I was never planning to do a one-woman show. But here I am.”

Bailit opens her heart – and her life. She reveals parts of her life usually reserved for intimate friends or family.  “With four characters, it’s a roller coaster ride. It’s complete playtime for me. But what really drives me,” says Bailit, “is that I feel like – and I don’t meant for this to sound trite – but I really feel I have a much deeper purpose for my acting. Much deeper than what anyone could hire me for.”

You probably would not get the sense that Bailit’s one-woman show is meant to feed her ego. “I never wanted my acting career to be hedonistic, but I feel this can give real joy to people and serve a purpose. I know that when I do this show, I have an incredible connection with these people sitting here and I’m talking to each and everyone and noticing what they’re doing. There’s this really live connection.”

One of the characters Bailit portrays in Sugar Happens is a housewife. It’s a role that, so far, has eluded her. “I’m afraid of becoming one, so now I get to live it out on stage.” And what’s a one-actor show without personal landmines? Bailit seems to slow her mind and her speech as she answers. “Oh, yes, there are landmines. There’s sharing my brother’s memory, for one.” Tough, but gratifying, she says. “The various characters are so worried about not fulfilling their meaning, their purpose in life. They’re all so anxious that their life is going by and they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. They’re worried that they haven’t found true happiness or fulfillment. That resonates with me because I’m still chasing after it. There’s so much I haven’t achieved.”

An auto-biographical one-actor show can be an exercise or an exorcism. In Bailit’s case, it has altered the way she wants her future to unfold. “I don’t feel like I have to have things that justify me or validate me. I’m not married, for example. When I started working on this show, I felt like I had to have a kid by a certain time. I think it’s taken that pressure off me.”

In short, it has liberated her. “It’s like, ‘You’re not gonna cast me? Fuck it! I’m gonna put on my own show! I’ve got four chairs, three wigs, and I’m going for it!’”  

But what happens to that sense of empowerment when Sugar Happens becomes a thing of the past? “That’s why I wanted to do a full run after a lot of one-night stands, work-shopping it forever. People would come, it would be great, then I wouldn’t do it for another six months. The thought of it ending is depressing right now.”

There is one project, however, that intrigues Bailit, assuming her one-woman show does not lead to something in TV or film. After all, someone once told her she has the body of Sharon Stone and the face of Carol Burnett. One of her characters, in fact, has had a little work done (although Bailit has not). The character admits, “My friend says I’m in danger of becoming a caricature of myself. He says one more boob lift and I won’t be able to drive a car. Or see.”

“I’d like to play the erotic writer, Anaïs Nin,” says Bailit. “My only concern is that I’m too tall.”

Sugar Happens is presented by A-Lee Lulee Productions at the Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Drive, Burbank. Through June 20. Wed., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. (800) 838-3006. Tickets are $20, but only $10 if you use my name (STEVE JULIAN) on the reservation line or at the door. Directed by Phil Ramuno.

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