DeKALB – Lauren Partch always has looked up to actresses such as Nicole Kidman, Carrie Fisher, Kate Blanchett and Anjelica Huston, who play strong female lead roles and strong characters.
But when she was cast in theater roles in college, Partch realized that most characters she portrayed were either in love or heartbroken, with their main storyline always centered around questioning their worth.
Partch, a DeKalb native, is the co-producer, head of marketing and featured actor in a new film called “My Little Renaissance Girl.” The film tells the story of mental health, body dysmorphia and female friendship, and is being produced by a team made up of mostly women. The feature film was written by Amy Heller, and will be directed by Bethany Berg and produced by Partch, Heller, Anthony Gibson and Familiar Pictures.
Fundraising for the film is underway with a GoFundMe page. Filming will begin in the spring, and the film is planned to be released in 2022. The film will premiere in Chicago at the Music Box Theatre and then appear on the festival circuit with the hopes of one day being added to Netflix.
MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton spoke to Partch about growing up in DeKalb, the lack of strong female representation in theater and the film “My Little Renaissance Girl.”
Milton: How has growing up in DeKalb shaped you as a performer?
Partch: I grew up in DeKalb, went to St. Mary’s from kindergarten through eighth grade, and I graduated from DeKalb High School in 2010. … DeKalb is my home and my stage presence started with Mr. [Greg] Solomon on the DeKalb Forensics team and onstage in the high school plays. He helped me to find the confidence behind using my voice and his belief in me allowed me to learn the valuable skill of speaking in front of others. His mentorship allowed me to gain confidence in who I was and sparked my love for storytelling. Mr. [Travis] Erickson also pushed me and gave me opportunities in choir, the musicals, and the a cappella group as well, allowing me to improve my singing. My love for performance came from all these opportunities I was given in high school and pushed me to continue these passions in college and now as a professional career. The community I found there, my incredible parents, and the people who love me are what made it possible for me to pursue my dreams.
Milton: Where did you go after graduating from DeKalb High School?
Partch: I attended Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal. I graduated in 2015 with a double major in acting and psychology and a minor in women and gender studies. Then I moved to Chicago and was cast in plays at The Den Theatre, Stage 773, Greenhouse Theatre and Prop Thtr. I was ready to take my career to the next level, so I auditioned for an academy program for acting and I was accepted. From June until October 2017, I was enrolled in The Academy through Blackbox Acting, run by Laura Hooper and Audrey Francis at the time. I worked Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then had The Academy from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., so to say the least, it was a busy time. While I was there, I met some amazing women that I become extremely close with: Alex Nolen, Philena Gilmer and Amy Heller. After a few months after graduating The Academy, we began talking. We asked ourselves, “Why not produce our own play?”
Milton: What was that play?
Partch: In 2019, we produced a dark comedy about the complexity around female friendships, “For the Record” at Prop Thtr. The play was written by Amy Heller and MaryClare Zimmermann, and directed by Bethany Hart. The premise was around three women in their 20s who had just experienced the loss of one of their best friends in a tragic accident, which brought out different grieving processes, underlying resentments in their friendships, reflections about what they were doing with their own lives and the theme that true friends will always love you through better or worse. I was a producer, starred as the character “B,” and was the head of marketing. The play was a success as we sold out our run of the show, and we asked, why not a film?
Milton: Tell me more about the film “My Little Renaissance Girl.”
Partch: This year, Amy and I partnered with Anthony Gibson and Familiar Pictures to produce a feature film, “My Little Renaissance Girl,” written by Amy Heller. Amy drew from many of her own experiences, and all of us have had our share with self-conscious thoughts about our bodies. We will start filming spring 2021 and we are in the fundraising process currently to ensure everyone involved is paid. The film is a dark comedy about body dysmorphia, Renaissance Fanfare, self-love, female friendships, and healing. We feel it’s important to portray real bodies on screen and real stories about mental health while making you laugh.
Milton: Why is creating a film that is female-produced important?
Partch: We wanted to change the statistics in the film industry by bringing in more female representation. The film has a 90% female team, including the cast and director. I noticed in college that the roles I was given were either a women in love or woman that was heartbroken. I’ve had amazing women teachers throughout my career, but the majority of my teachers were men. In Chicago, I had more versatile roles, but shows in Chicago have male producers, male directors and male board members. A majority of the plays I’ve been cast in were written by a man. The plays I connected to the most were the ones written by women. It is important to us to create a film that would represent and include more women in the cast, production team, marketing team, women writers and women directors.