In the Wings: Rachel O’Hanlon-Rodriguez of Lulu’s Golden Shoes

Getting to know Philly’s brightest theater stars, one rapid-fire Q&A at a time.

Flashpoint Theater Company is presenting the Philadelphia premiere of Quiara Alegría Hudes’s Lulu’s Golden Shoes, a dark coming-of-age satire that centers around a North Philly barrio girl, Ana, and her mystical neighbor, Rosie Lulu. We had a chance to chat with Ana herself, Rachel O’Hanlon-Rodriguez, about how she uses some method acting to prepare for the show (including listening to Selena) and about the time she met sirs Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart.

My name is … Rachel O’Hanlon-Rodriguez. It’s a mouthful, I know, but I love that I have both my mother and father’s last names. The name is truly one of a kind, since my brother dropped the O’Hanlon. I ain’t no quitter.

I am a … Carbon compound wandering this part of the Universe. I am also from North Jersey, so there’s that.

On opening night … I can’t wait to hear what people think. There’s an intense amount of storytelling going on and I’m excited to hear what people take from it. I, of course, can’t wait for a few post-show celebratory drinks and hugs.

My favorite part of the show is … Oh gosh, I have to choose one?! I love Ana’s Amazing Voice, played by Leah Walton. But I also love watching the alchemists be absurd and then intense and then absurd. In the end, my favorite part might be the costumes, since they really bring the barrio to life.  (Thanks, Natalia de la Torre!) Or maybe it’s that the show exists in a magical, yet honest, space. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m in love with the world we’ve all crafted.

A scene from "Lulu's Golden Shoes."

A scene from “Lulu’s Golden Shoes.”

To get into character for this show, I … eat a lot of macaroni and cheese, chomp on some pork rinds, blast some Selena/TLC/Lauryn Hill, and paint my nails black with a Sharpie. I also gain 15 more pounds right before I make my first entrance.

My first stage kiss … was in a high school scene from Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida. My scene partner was very tall and I’m not so much, so it was pretty awkward for everyone.

The first play I was in was … In elementary school. I believe I was a giraffe. My mom said I was the best giraffe out there, but then again she is my mom.

My dream role is … I never have a good response to this. But I might be doing a dream role right now. There’s not many times that a short Puerto Rican girl can be the lead of a play. Maybe my dreams will keep finding me!

My surprising celebrity crush is … Gary Oldman. You think he’s old? Have you seen that talent? Mmmhmmm.

The most famous person I’ve ever met … Sir Ian McKellan and Sir Patrick Stewart, after watching them perform Waiting for Godot. Front row seats with post-show handshakes and autographs. I get inspired just thinking about it.

The last thing I binge-watched was … Sense8. Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

To stay in shape I … Walk almost everywhere. My best gym friend is my Nike Training Center App and Pinterest yoga boards. Plus I dance a lot. Both professionaly and at random dance parties. Life is better when you dance.

The last time I dined out in Philadelphia, I ate … a gyro burger from Lucky’s Last Chance. [I’m a] burger and a beer kinda girl, what can I say?

The best show I saw in Philly recently … EgoPo’s The Hairy Ape blew my mind. Such amazing ensemble work. I also loved Rosencrantz and Gildenstern at the Wilma.

The best thing about Philadelphia’s theater scene is … That it’s adventurous, takes risks, and is constantly evolving. I love that I could see a show every night if I wanted to, that there’s something for everyone, and that young artists can dare to build their own work in a city that appreciates its culture.

Lulu’s Golden Shoes runs through August 2nd at the Caplan Studio Theatre at University of the Arts. For tickets and more information, visit Flashpoint Theatre Company’s webpage.