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Rachel Dratch created her fair share of comically colorful characters on "Saturday Night Live": Debbie Downer; the Lovers with Will Ferrell; and the amormous Boston teen duo with Jimmy Fallon.
In her latest stage gambit, she's dealing with some real-life characters who don't know how deeply silly they are - celebrities who have taken it upon themselves to pen their own memoirs.
Dratch stars alongside such performers as Joe Pantoliano and Michael Ian Black in "Celebrity Autobiography," which is having a two-night stand at Long Wharf Theater in New Haven.
The actors all read from actual writings of the likes of Suzanne Somers, Tommy Lee, Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds. (Dratch usually reads from the tomes of Joan Lunden; Burt Reynolds' secretary; and occasionally even a Jonas brother.)
"Celebrity Autobiography," which was created and developed by Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel, won the 2009 Drama Desk Award in the category of Unique Theatrical Experience.
The performances here cap a monumental year for Dratch. The 44-year-old had a baby boy in September. When she calls The Day, I can hear her almost four-month-old baby boy fussing briefly in the background.
"We'll see how this goes," she says of the phone interview. "My last one of these was a disaster. He started crying. The guy was like, 'What do you think ...?' and I was like (yelling, anguished), 'I don't know!'"
Earlier in the year, Dratch returned to her old stomping grounds, "Saturday Night Live," where she was a regular from 1999 to 2006 ("It's superfun. It's like your dream job, and then it's all encompassing."). She made drop-in appearances on episodes that Betty White and Amy Poehler hosted.
What follows are some excerpts from the conversation.
"Celebrity Autobiography" doesn't take too much time away from the baby because it doesn't require rehearsals:
"It's really fun. You just go in and read a cheesy autobiography and get big laughs and go home. I mean, there's not much preparation. ... There's kind of a core group of people who do the show. We have worked on these pieces over the years, but you do kind of just go in. It ain't Shakespeare, you know."
During her college days, Dratch spent a semester in 1986 in Waterford, studying at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Theater Institute. She recalls it as being "very idyllic":
"I loved it. I think that's where I decided to do the acting thing for real. It was just superfun, because it was people from all different colleges, and all you do is theater, (and it) passes under the guise of education. (She laughs.) I can't believe my parents let me do that. But anyway, no, you eat, breathe and sleep (theater), you do costumes and design, you have to take dance class, singing, everything. You're doing theater stuff 24/7.
"I went in kind of thinking, 'Well, I'm kind of just doing this for fun,' but a lot of people there really wanted to become an actor. I guess I thought, 'Well, if they're trying it, maybe I should just try it.' ...
"I remember the beach and the beautiful setting. I remember not enjoying dance class. We even had to go to Old Lyme and do sculpture."
On having a baby:
"It's awesome and no sleep - it's what everyone tells you. I'm kind of learning as I go, which is what everyone does."
On whether having a baby has affected her work:
"I wish I could say that I'm like really swamped (with jobs). (She laughs.) ... People say, 'Are you going to take a break for that?,' and I'm like, 'Yeah, let's call it that.' No, I have had a few jobs here and there, and it's been a good balance because I get to have someone come in for the day. But it's kind of a good time to just mainly take care of him."
Dratch, who grew up in Lexington, Mass., drew on the people she knew when she played Boston teen Denise opposite Jimmy Fallon's Sully on "SNL":
"It's sort of like everyone I went to high school with. Well, not everyone I went to high school with - a faction of people. In some of those scenes, I'd use names of people or a science teacher I had or whatever, like all the guys we hung out with. There's one where Ben Affleck says this string of nicknames and those were really people I went to high school with. So it was fun to insert private jokes."
Presumably, after starring in "Celebrity Autobiography," she'd never want to write her own celebrity autobiography?
"Well, I would just be careful. No, I don't know. I'd have to beware of that one."
"Celebrity Autobiography," 7 and 9:30 p.m. Wed., Dec. 29, and Thurs., Dec. 30, Long Wharf Theater, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven; $40; (203) 787-4282, longwharf.org.