Article by Luis Vazquez

All’s well that ends well. But in this adaptation of Swan Lake we are left with the question of how did it end? Speculation is in the air as love and innocence is captured, symbolized by swans serving time in a pond with no outgoing rivers. In “The Lake of Sorrows” we see old men desire, deals made with the devil and spells dragging down the pure. We also have a hero, a prince and a possible rescue. But it falls short. Or does it. After three performance dates at the Hudson Guild Theatre as part of the Thespis Theater Festival 2017 we may have the answer. As in all plays there are discoveries and one who stood out in a duel role was Zoe Lau, a Hong Kong born actress who in a short period has already completed a body of work that screams of a promising future.

Lau plays both Frieda, a friend of Odette (Anie Delgado) one of the lead characters in this play and Cygnet, a baby swan who is cursed along with her friend to dance only during the day only to return to the water at moonlight. More on that later. Lau is well-experienced with a diverse list of roles to her credit. In this one she is the supporting actress. Lau brings that breath of fresh air to a play that is for the most part quite dark. Her attention to detail brought depth to her interpretation of Cygnet helped in part through her work in psychology, a field she earned a degree in at the University of Kent.

“It helped me in terms of playing different roles. Obviously for me always analyzing different characters and doing background research if I play a specific character or one without dialogue like a dog,” Zoe Lau explained, “It’s really not just about things that are stuck in the brain but physicality, that also helps the characters I play including Cygnet. Some of the movements are a little abstract than compared to normal ballet.”

But what an exquisite mind she has. Lau has for her twenty-plus years on earth has displayed an innate ability to absorb everything she experiences like a sponge. It’s a testament to her parents who opened doors and never set limits. They made it clear that the world was her oyster.

“They wanted me to have the best education. They gave me the freedom to choose where I wanted to go to college,” Lau said “They were open-minded and very supportive.”

They accompanied her when it was to her benefit. She danced as a child and continued as an adult. In Singapore she was exposed to English schools and learned both Mandarin and Cantonese. She had an early interest in acting dating back to a kindergarten performance and since has parlayed many of these diverse interests in various locales to prepare and serve her well in her career to date.

Her first excursion on a solo journey was her U.K. experience and from that that point she got her degree in her second love which always interested her. But once she put that in the bank she took her world experiences in full pursuit of her first love, acting. She wore as many hats on stage as she had in life.

“I’m actually open to submitting to roles I think or believe I can play. When I get casted they’re all a different range of roles,” Lau pointed out, “We are doing tour in Maine where I played a princess of Japanese culture. I have played Sonya in “Uncle Vanya” and that was scary cause Anton Chekhov’s writing is heavy but at the same time so rich. I had to invest a lot of time and work into that character. I enjoyed that a lot. I played a Chinese/Singaporean and had to use an authentic Singaporean accent which I can still pull off. Different cultures helped me pick up different types of roles.”

Lau has only been in the United States for three years. Though based in a multi-cultural hotbed like New York City, it doesn’t translate to work opportunities for Asian-American actors. It is the consensus by those actors that upgrades from the traditional stereotypical roles that are imbedded in the American psyche is needed. Lau will tell you she has been fortunate especially since she hasn’t gone out of her way to pick and choose roles.
“Through my experiences, I was lucky not to get cast in exactly, entirely typecast roles. I think we have a wide range of diversity in this play and I’m thankful and happy for that,” said Lau, “Obviously there are roles that are still typecasting but I believe there are directors or producers out there who are looking for and fighting for diversity.”

Lau has won over casting agents with her vibrancy and flexibility that opens up eyes to see more in her than they previously may have thought initially.

“I am a passionate and hard-working actress who is always able to listen and take directions,” Lau said, “I’m open to opinions and am able to improve or change to make a character a better choice for the audience.”
This quality served her well in “Lake of Sorrows” as she learned the value of experience from actors such as Joseph Rose (Rothbart), the elder of the cast who this play revolves around.

“I remember vividly on the first day he was prepared and in character,” Lau recalled, “He studied so much into his work. I learned that every actor should be prepared.”

Through her co-lead Anie Delgado (Odette) she also learned professionalism and how working well with each other as friends off-stage would enable them to open avenues into their stage relationship.

“We have very good chemistry and connection that brought to the show some color,” Lau said, “We didn’t even rehearse a lot but it was enough to show that we are such friends in the story.”

Rothbart, whose reflection (Derek Nicoletto) was stolen in a deal with the Devil (Trevor van Uden) taking advantage of his age and loneliness which exposed him to seek love through magic means. This does nothing but reduce innocent girls into swans and when Odette refuses his offers is also transformed.

“This is Swan Lake as seen through the eyes of the writer E.Thomalen. He likes to write in poetry form. I think a lot of his works is all about beautiful storytelling,” Lau said, “Andrea Andresakis, the director put a lot of heartfelt imaginery into the play to showcase to the audience.”

Though there is dialogue, this play is best when its told through the dance movements and framed by the score. The talents of Emily White, through her costumes, brought the period to life as highlighted by Queen (Erica Moore) who wants her son, Prince Siegfried (Michael Gene Jacobs) to wed which leads him to escape reality by hunting in the forest with Franz (van Uden) where he discovers Odette. And the music of Edward W.Hardy, Composer/Music Director and solo violinist serves as the wordless narrative that guides the story.

“The colors and vibrant costumes had a lot of impact,” Lau said,” “Hardy and his music brought a new sense of theater and a lot of the story is showcased in dance, not just the spoken word,” said Lau.

The story ends with deception by Rothbart to prevent the joining of the Prince and Odette. But in turn he has to pay his final price as his soul is collected by the devil. One can speculate that with his power stripped that the curses of the swans also would be cancelled out, but we are not told. It’s a cold reality of a story but Lau brings a ray of light.

“For me, I see it as I am their comic relief in a dark play because the movements I do are little and cute like a swan’s movements which they enjoy in the darkness,” said Lau,” In every dark story there is always someone who tries to brighten the theme.”

You can follow Zoe on her website: www.zoelau.weebly.com

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