Trent Alumna Athena Reich '95 took New York City by storm a few years back by launching a provocative and very personal theatrical piece that stemmed from her own experiences dealing with infertility and miscarriages.
The twist? The one-woman show starred Lady Gaga. Or rather, Lady Gaga as imagined by Athena Reich. Imagine, if you will, what would happen if Gaga decided to give birth in front of an audience of her passionately devoted fans. Oh, and then imagine it as a cabaret-style musical.
Strange as it sounds, #ARTBIRTH garnered both fantastic reviews and sold out audiences.
After years of living in the Big Apple, Reich has set up shop -- and stage -- back in Canada, carving out a home and career in Toronto.
She's continued her extremely successful gig as a Gaga impersonator and just launched a new production of #ARTBIRTH, built from scratch, with all new content for a new Canadian audience. If the buzz is any indication -- it's made the front page of the Toronto Star, with an interview in the paper's Entertainment section -- Reich is set to make it big here as well.
The reception she's received from Toronto audiences has already left her both grateful and pleasantly surprised.
"It's overwhelming to launch a brand new show that's as wild, outrageous, and vulnerable as this, in my home town, as a sort of homecoming," she says. "Childhood friends, neighbours... so many are coming out of the woodwork to see it. And my soul is basically naked in this show. But in a ridiculously comedic out-of-this world light."
#ARTBIRTH takes Reich’s experiences -- one of a single lesbian who decided to conceive on her own -- and uses it as a narrative for a truly unique performance. It's her way of confronting the long process of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and and the personal struggles she experienced along the way.
Part of the success of the show stems from her experience as a Lady Gaga impersonator. Not just any Gaga impersonator, mind you, but one that Chatelaine Magazine called the "world's top," and the only one on the planet endorsed by Gaga herself.
Reich's story has also been captured in Vegas Baby -- a documentary that tells the (unbelievably) true story of a Las Vegas doctor and his annual contest offering a grand prize of a round of IVF. The movie, featured on Netflix, follows contestants who "post their video entries on YouTube, counting on the votes of strangers to make their dreams of parenthood come true." It's a powerful emotional roller-coaster of a film.
Reich, it should be noted, is hardly limited to her impersonator role. As a singer/songwriter, she has released 5 full-length albums and numerous singles. Her music videos have charted #1 on MTV LOGO and her song "Love is Love" won Best Pop Song at the Outmusic Awards.
As an actress, her credits include While Collar, The Perfect Murder, "An Evening with Donald Kempinski" (Little Fella Films), and "Hush: Inside the Waiting Womb" (LA / NY).
Her music can be bought on iTunes or streamed on Spotify.
We caught up with Reich last year for a full podcast interview: