NICOLE LAURENZI is currently starring in Little Fish, having moved from New York to work in Chicago theater. We asked her to write about her unique experience on the show.

I came to Chicago from New York with the goal of getting to tell stories like Little Fish. I also find it pretty hilarious and fascinating that one of the first stories I find myself telling on stage in Chicago is one that takes place in New York. I spent my twenties in that city undertaking the elusive task of (what I have been told is called) “finding myself”. It was a long journey, but one I can say I am very grateful for as it has brought me to Chicago’s vibrant and fiercely creative theater community.

Many people wax poetic about New York, both those who have lived there and those who have not. Here’s the deal. I can only tell you the city I experienced in my ten years living there, which was one that was magical, infuriating, humbling, and exhilarating. It was a place that magnified my successes and at the same time seemed to drag me further into my failures. I walked the city with pride, knowing it to be a place for the strong and ambitious, a place full of people taking on the task of “being their best selves”. But, here’s the thing; as human beings, we are so often not strong, not motivated, and not our best selves, and when you are down New York will not do you any favors. In this sense New York being the setting of Little Fish, a story about a woman trying to drag herself out of the mire of her own BS, is certainly evocative. On a positive note, this setting also captures how living in a big city forces you to form unity with both others and yourself, a phenomenon which I’m sure many Chicagoans will also relate to. I feel that in our production of Little Fish, our director Allison has managed to gracefully highlight the perils of looking outside of ourselves for happiness rather than summoning the bravery to release our accumulated smoke screens (sorry for the pun, I had to…), and delve within for answers.

Last Sunday afternoon a group of young theatre students from The Cherubs Program at Northwestern University attended our show and stayed for a talkback afterwards. When asked what they thought the show was about I was thrilled to see several of them raise their hands and give this answer (forgive me for paraphrasing, I did not have my tape recorder on me at the time): It is a show about a woman who is trying to find her relationship with herself, rather than looking for a romantic relationship to define her. Or as two of my (male) friends succinctly told me after seeing the show: “Man, I am so glad you didn’t end up with some dude at the end.”

At the end of this play what Charlotte finds for all of her searching is, in fact, simply herself. To me that is a story worth telling. I am so happy to be a part of this wonderful team and cast of humans. It is such a joy to spend every performance living through the experience of Charlotte finally finding a little bit of peace. You don’t see this narrative often in theater or film because it is not glamorous or flashy, but it is one I think many people will find poignant and familiar, no matter what city they live in.