PPT’s ‘Good People’ explores class, racial issues

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by Genea L. Webb
For New Pittsburgh Courier

January LaVoy is excited about returning to the city of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Public Theater.

“I performed at the Public ten years ago and I did the first production of ‘Piano Lesson.’ I love Pittsburgh it feels like a real city and to me it feels like home,” explained LaVoy who was born and raised in Southern Connecticut.

januarylavoy
JANUARY LAVOY

LaVoy has returned to the Golden Triangle to perform in the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s rendition of David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2011 Tony-nominated funny play “Good People.”

The production is the second one in the theater’s Made In America series, which features works by American writers that are set in cities across the United States and bring to light such social issues as class, race, money, equality, individual responsibility and real estate.

Set in modern-day Boston, “Good People” tells the story of single-mom Margaret who is fired from her Dollar Store job and her landlady wants rent. To make things worse, her Bingo partner tells Margaret that her old boyfriend has become a doctor and is living back in Boston. Thinking that he might help her gain employment, Margaret attends a party at the upscale home of Mike and his African-American wife, Kate, who is played by LaVoy.

“Kate comes from money. She’s very educated and smart,” says LaVoy of her character. “This play is extraordinary. It’s about class which is what we deal with on a lot of levels. In ‘Good People,’ the person of means is the person of color, which means this play will resonate with people in Pittsburgh because there is a thriving African-American population.”

LaVoy brings her extensive stage and screen experience to the role of Kate. She began performing on stage at the tender age of three as Roo in a children’s production of Winnie The Pooh. At the encouragement of her beloved grandmother, LaVoy took acting lessons at the age of eight and acted professionally in industrial films and continued to perform in productions in Connecticut and beyond throughout high school. Once enrolled at Fairfield University as a theater major, she performed in more than 16 productions.

Upon graduating from college, LaVoy started her professional acting career with roles in stock theater productions. After relocating to New York, the avid reader was accepted into the highly competitive National Theatre Conservatory in Denver, which at that time only accepted three female MFA candidates per year. Her success at the school led to numerous leading roles including Stella in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and Portia in “The Merchant of Venice.”

She made her Broadway debut in the short-lived but well-received American premiere of Lucy Prebble’s “ENRON” in 2010.

“I get a thrill every time I step on stage. It feels like falling in love,” she said. “Rehearsing a play and really crafting it and trying to figure out where the writer and character is coming from and where the character is going you are really getting into their skin and I enjoy doing that everyday.”

LaVoy easily transitioned into television with appearances in all three “Law & Order” franchises, the CBS medical drama “3 lbs” starring Stanley Tucci and Mark Feuerstein, “All My Children” and “Guiding Light.”

She created the character of Noelle Ortiz on the NBC soap opera “One Life to Live” where she was featured from 2007 to 2009 and again, prior to the show’s cancellation earlier this year.

“Working on the soap was fantastic! Noelle was from Paris, Texas and her vocation was baking pies. She was the quintessential nice character on the show and she was a true believer in love. She was very sweet,” said LaVoy about her television character.

Although she enjoyed her time as Noelle Ortiz on daytime television, LaVoy has always had a soft spot for live theater and particularly for playwrights.

“I let the writer dictate who I play on stage. It’s all about what you’re saying. My respect for writers and playwrights in particular is enormous because the playwright has to imagine the characters and the world that the characters live in. We as actors are here to serve the writer and tell the story,” she said.

In addition to her stage and television work, LaVoy is an accomplished voiceover artist and has recorded numerous commercials and audio books including works by James Patterson, Libba Bray, Marcia Clark and Bethenny Frankel.

“Good People” will be running at the O’Reilly Theater from Nov. 8 to Dec. 9.

Tickets prices are $23 to $55. Students and age 26 and younger $15.75 with valid ID.

(For tickets call (412) 316-1600 or visit http://www.ppt.org.)

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