Age & Hometown: 31; Chapel Hill, NC. “Go Heels!”
Current Role: Stealing the show as Arielle, the sexually adventurous talent booker for Brooklyn Bowl, in off-Broadway’s F#%king Up Everything.
Part of Her World: When Lisa Birnbaum steps on stage at the Elektra Theatre, the new rock musical F#%king Up Everything becomes a little more electric. Her character is a free spirit who is just as likely to have a three-way with BFFs as she is to help a stranger fulfill a dream. “At the center of Arielle is this profound love of life,” the Yale School of Drama graduate says. “All you've got to do is get on the L train to Brooklyn and you’re going to see every version of every character in our play, tenfold. I saw the real Arielle in Williamsburg wearing shiny white pants and a mint green top, with enormous hair. She was the life of the party, and I was like, ‘Holy shit, that’s her.'” Birnbaum's character maintains an outrageous bucket list, and Birnbaum has a more modest one, combining typical milestones (Broadway, TV, Tony Award) and one special dream: “I want to take my family out to dinner, a huge group, and pay for it myself. I think that would be really fulfilling. I know it sounds like a small thing, but we’re all starving artists out here.”
Sing Out, Lisa! The daughter of “uber intellectuals,” Birnbaum never planned on becoming an actress. “I thought I’d be an environmental scientist like my mother,” she says, but her goal changed during a summer program in London. “I thought I was just going on vacation, and lo and behold, I found myself while I was there,” she says with a laugh. The program included a 30-minute training session with the musical director of Les Miserables, which Birnbaum recalls as “this magical Disneyland experience. He pushed me in a way I’ve never felt before, and I sang bigger and better than I ever had. When I finished, he looked at me and said, ‘Hmm, you know you have to stick with this.’ I was speechless.” Birnbaum remembers running out of the building and into a phone booth. “I called my mother and was like, ‘Mom I think I’m an actress!’ And she was like, ‘Oh yeah, I know.’ She didn’t even bat an eyelash.”
Full Circle: When she’s not performing or working a day job at a computer company, Birnbaum enjoys writing poetry and traveling. “I just think, in some regards, travel is a better education than you can ever get in a classroom,” she says. “You learn about the world we live in, and it’s thrilling to be able to get out of your comfort zone and have that anonymous feeling when you’re abroad.” Birnbaum has backpacked across Europe, lived in Israel for a year and made several trips to Latin and Central America. “Coming full circle, maybe that’s what I have in common with Arielle,” she muses. “She’s been around the world, of her own volition, just soaking up humanity and different cultures, religions, ethnicities and foods and seeing the strains of love no matter where you go. Maybe I am a little more like Arielle than I give myself credit for!”