The Story Behind the Photo: "The Roommate"

SCR Staff
 | Sep 02, 2021
Tessa Auberjonois and Linda Gehringer in The Roommate by Jen Silverman (2017). Photo by Debora Robinson

About The Roommate

Sharon is sensible. An Iowan. An empty nester. Curious and very, very talkative. For the first time in her life, at age 54, she takes in a roommate to make ends meet. Robyn, a new arrival from the Bronx, is hiding a lifetime of secrets. But Sharon has a way of getting to the truth—the fascinating, shocking truth. This intriguing and funny play proves it’s never too late to shake things up—for better or worse.

Tessa Auberjonois has been in nearly a dozen productions at South Coast Repertory—as well as numerous new-play readings as part of the NewSCRipts series and the Pacific Playwrights Festival. In SCR’s production of The Roommate by Jen Silverman (2017), directed by SCR Founding Artistic Director Martin Benson, she portrayed Robyn, a world-wise woman who rents a room from Sharon. The experience was magical for Auberjonois, who selected this photo as her favorite.

What moment does this depict?

This play was a two-character story of two very unlikely and mismatched roommates, Robyn and Sharon.  It begins when my character, Robyn, arrives in the home of Sharon (Linda Gehringer) and ends after Robyn has left. Over the course of the play, they form a very unlikely friendship. In this photo, Robyn has just convinced Sharon to smoke a joint with her—something Sharon has never done!—and they are having a really good laugh.

How did you work to make this moment happen?

Because it was just two actors and our director Martin Benson working on a full-length play, we were a very tight company. Martin helped me find the physicality—and padding, wig and make-up!—to create a character who was about 15-20 years older than my actual age.  

What’s the power about this moment?

It was not hard work at all to find the genuine laughter you can see in this picture. Linda and I had a really magical time performing this piece together every night. All I needed to do for moments like this was look to Linda to make me laugh and fill me with real joy.

Anything else you’d like to say about the photo or the production?

Because the play takes place on one set and has multiple scenes with just the two of us, and also Jen Silverman's writing was very contemporary and specific, this was (one of) the hardest scripts to memorize. Linda and I worked really hard and it certainly paid off. Some writers have an innate sense of language and timing and we found that when we really nailed the words exactly as written and punctuated on the page, it just soared. I'm proud of that because I think it's an example of making something that was really hard look easy and effortless. I also got to stand backstage at the end of the play, after my character had moved out, and listen to Linda's beautiful final monologue, which made me cry every single night!