My name is Laura Axelrod and I’m a writer, playwright and actor. My work focuses on beliefs – why people believe the things they do. Beliefs are the basis through which people create their reality and live in society.
Understanding why people have their beliefs is integral to uncovering our common humanity. How history, personal experiences and spirituality play a role in these beliefs serve as the foundation for my books, plays and films.
And now, rather than having a standard media bio, let’s do something more personal.
I grew up in Granby, Connecticut, which these days I hear has a bear problem. Apparently, bears are breaking into people’s houses. We did not have such problems back in my day. There were lush autumns, hard winters and warm summers. I spent a great deal of time alone in my room, turning my Charlie Brown books into scripts and acting them out in front of an imaginary audience. I was an intense kid. My preteen years were split between studying ‘Teen magazine so I could figure out how to become popular and reading about Watergate and the Carter administration. I also enjoyed news shows like 60 Minutes, and of course, professional wrestling.
In my junior year of high school, I auditioned and was accepted into the Greater Hartford Academy of the Performing Arts. My audition piece was Martha’s monologue from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf Did I mention I was an intense kid? My teenage job, aside from working in a donut store, was acting in a group called Looking In Theatre. We created improved scenes based on teen issues and then performed them at various schools and community groups in New England. The best part was that I got paid to do it.
I graduated New York University, Tisch School of the Arts with an MFA and BFA in Dramatic Writing. My BFA thesis play, Everybody in This House, won the Rod Marriott Senior Playwriting Award. I also received the John L. Golden Award for Playwright with Most Potential.
In order to get into the Dramatic Writing program at NYU Tisch, I had to submit a writing portfolio. The admissions committee liked my writing, but my grades were low. So, the head of the program made an exception for me. I was on academic probation my first year and survived.
The people I studied playwriting with include Tina Howe, Alfred Uhry, Len Jenkin, Martin Epstein, Lonnie Carter, Shirley Lauro, Venable Herndon, Lynne Alvarez.
I learned about theater by interning at Circle Repertory Company during my undergraduate years. I began at the literary office during a quiet summer, when the literary manager had quit but a new one had yet to be hired. As a result of the unstructured environment, I was able to pilfer through the literary archives at Circle Rep. All the play drafts from playwrights, such as Sam Shepard, Joe Pintauro, Timothy Mason, and Paula Vogel were kept in manila envelopes. I read early drafts of Lanford Wilson’s work, along with the finished scripts. I also read agent submissions that were piling up on the floor of the office. With other interns, we evaluated un-agented submissions and sent out rejection letters.
Since I was eager to learn everything I could about theater, they taught me how to stage manage shows and work production. During the day, I worked in the literary office and at night, I was part of their mainstage stage crew. I also stage managed several Circle Rep Lab shows, as well as six other off-off Broadway shows in New York that year. Eventually, I knew I had to choose between production and playwriting. So, I went back to playwriting, with only occasional roles in production.
My play, Everybody in This House, was produced at San Francisco State University. It was spotted by an independent producer who remounted the production at City College of San Francisco and then it went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. Absence of Light, a performance poem, was produced at Venue 9 and a women’s theater festival in Eureka, California.
In New York City, I had monologues and short plays read or produced at Dixon Place, Collective Unconscious, Westside Rhyme, The Red Room, and Raw Impressions Musical Theatre.
After moving to rural Alabama, my play Searching for the Sign received Honorable Mention from the American Blues Theater’s 2013 Blue Ink Playwriting Award. It was also read at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Alaska.
I studied acting at New York University with Gary Garrison, among others. Sine then, I studied Foundation and Process and Voice for the Actor at the Alliance Theater, in Atlanta, Subtext and Character at the Chattanooga Theater, Auditioning and Voice at the Atlantic Theater Company. I have performed in New York, San Francisco, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I have also done voiceover work.
I was one of the first theater bloggers back in the early ‘00s, and the only woman in that original group. I’m not sure that’s something to brag about, but there it is. During that period, I became fascinated with the literary potential of blogs. In 2008, I created Project 1968, a blog docu-novel which explored the life of Janine Stephenson experiencing 1968 as a Eugene McCarthy for President volunteer. Much of the research for my story about 1968 took place in 2005-2006 when I lived in Austin, Texas. I spent a year at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library photographing documents related to the 1968 Democratic Convention. Educause Review discussed Project 1968 in “Web 2.0 Storytelling: Emergence of a New Genre.”
Although I flirted with filmmaking throughout the years, I finally completed my first film, Becoming Colonel Cullmann. I wrote, produced, directed and did voiceover for this short documentary. It was shown at the 2014 Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, Alabama. The DVD is available for sale. (It has lots of extras.) You can also view the film on YouTube.
When I wasn’t doing theater, I focused on journalism. During my first year of college, I interned at CNN in New York for Showbiz Today. My goal was to meet famous people and I was successful. I won’t talk about who I met because I don’t want to be accused of name dropping.
After moving to Alabama, I worked at The Birmingham News, Alabama’s largest newspaper. I wrote close to 300 entertainment articles and over 100 book reviews.
I have a strong interest in arts journalism. In 2016, I interviewed Armand DeKeyser for the National Endowment for the Humanities magazine, Humanities. I also worked at The Clyde Fitch Report for three years. As a columnist, I interviewed changemakers and key people in the national arts scene. I also edited other pieces for the website.
My published works include my play, Everybody in This House, which you can find in the Original Works catalogue and Amazon. A Measuring Cup of Balances is a collection of my monologues and poems, is also available on Amazon. I’m currently writing a book series.
When I’m not working – and it always seems like I’m working – I like keeping my skills current by taking theater, writing, acting and film classes throughout the country. I’ve taken in-person and online classes at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, The Chattanooga Theater Center, The Actor’s School in Nashville and PlayPenn in Philadelphia.
I’m also a certified meditation teacher and energy healer. That might sound strange to you, but I think a lot of your beliefs are probably a bit weird so we’ll call it even. I used to teach meditation in New York City to artists and theatermakers. Maybe someday I’ll go back to teaching because I think it could help people..
I still live in rural Alabama, in a farmhouse that was built in 1885 by my husband’s great-grandfather. I upcycle furniture, take care of our two cats and frequently talk about moving somewhere else.