This Los Angeles-based artist appreciates her long commute: Colleen Labella, Director
Hopeful artists and entertainers can expect to spend well more than 100 hours each year sitting in traffic when they move to the city of stars. For Los Angeles residents, that’s reason to groan and moan with angst.
That’s not the case for Colleen Labella. A self-proclaimed introvert and spirited young director, Colleen revels in those sacred hours.
“These days I’m spending time around some of the brightest minds in Hollywood. I wouldn’t change a minute of it, but I’m taking advantage of quiet time in my car,” Colleen said. “It’s my chance to reflect, regroup and reconnect. Sorry if I haven’t called as much lately.”
Full disclosure: Colleen also happens to be one of my best friends. We met as acting students at the University of Connecticut back in 2011, bonded over our love of Shonda Rhimes’s show Private Practice, and unapologetically ate our weight in chocolate chip cookies. And, despite having to play phone tag with each other lately, it’s been thrilling to watch her career take flight this year.
Colleen is currently assistant directing The Cake alongside Jennifer Chambers at the Geffen Playhouse. From hit television writer and producer Bekah Brunstetter (This is Us, Switched at Birth), The Cake is a play about Della, a North Carolina baker and devout Christian whose best friend's daughter is returning home to plan her wedding. When Della discovers that the girl she helped to raise is engaged to marry another woman, she must decide whether or not she can bake a wedding cake topped with two brides.
Colleen’s involvement with The Cake, which opens September 10, marks her second assistant directing gig this year for a well-known regional theatre. Her first opportunity came with IAMA Theatre Company’s recent production of Cult of Love, written by Leslye Headland (Bachelorette, Sleeping with Other People, Seven Deadly Plays) and directed by Annie Tippe.
“It was an interesting group to come into as an introvert. Everyone in the play [Cult of Love] knew each other, and I was always the youngest person in the room,” Colleen admitted. “You can either shy away from that situation or own it. I wanted to own it.”
Knowing Colleen as well as I do, I had no doubt she “owned” it in her humble way.
“I’m a young female director who wants to direct in a world where female directors and writers are still an anomaly. And, working on Cult of Love, there I was behind the table with three extraordinary artists. We were three women at different places in our careers pouring our blood, sweat and tears into a production for a theatre company run by women. It was incredible.”
While Colleen soaked in the experience each step of the way, she admits that her transition from acting to directing has been challenging at times. She liked stepping into the shoes of characters as an actress. Directing, she reflected, can be much more exhausting for the introvert.
“Suddenly, it’s all you. Everything you put up onstage is you. Even though you may be hidden behind the page, you’re just as exposed.”
Juggling babysitting, tutoring and her artistic endeavors, it's no wonder Colleen catches her breath in the driver's seat.
“I’m starting to find my people in this city,” Colleen said. “When I’m passing time on the expressway, I reflect on the relationships I’m grateful for, old and new, that continue to shape my directing career. I'm tired. I feel the fire of excitement and determination within me. And, I can't wait to see where the next scene brings me."