Despite reaching their Kickstarter goal with one week left to go, actors Sarah Mack and Lauren Dortch-Crozier have a great deal for you. In exchange for continuing to generously support their web series “It’s Fine” (and help fund an extra episode), the two are willing to commit “several acts of public humiliation” in a Juice Generation.
“She’ll pour smoothie on herself and I’ll slowly undress while singing Neil Diamond,” said Mack, seated beside an equally earnest-looking Dortch-Crozier, who added, “If the money’s right, I’m talking full-on protein smoothie.” Flicking her wrists back and forth, Mack continued, “And you know those boosters that come in little vials? I’m going to sprinkle them on her like holy water.”
Not unlike the pair’s own struggles with the business they call show, “It’s Fine” is a “dark comedy” centered on an “underemployed playwright” — played by Mack, a UCB performer herself — trying to make it in the big city. The parallels continue, as the playwright (cough, named Mackenzie) survives day-to-day by working in a high-end boutique, a fate similarly befalling Mack and Dortch-Crozier.
“It definitely comes from a place we can both relate to,” said Mack, who together with Dortch-Crozier will draw heavily on their experiences selling clothes to the wives of the Upper West Side. “Most of the things that will happen in this series have happened to us,” said Dortch-Crozier, adding for instance: “I had a lady tell me, ‘My daughter’s a little fat — about your size. Why don’t you try it on?’”
Lending the foil to Mackenzie’s comic pop is her co-worker, Cassidy, played by Dortch-Crozier, who describes the character as a “well intentioned daily obstacle” for Mackenzie. As a narrative device, Cassidy embodies the privilege that blinds so many unburdened by the slings and arrows of poverty, constantly reminding Mackenzie of all the things she goes without and challenges she faces in overcoming her circumstances.
Much of what motivated this project to begin with came from the pairs’ familiarity with characters like Cassidy in the real world, people who just didn’t have to work as hard to get to where they got. Growing tired of auditioning for the same sort of roles and “frustrated with the nepotism involved,” Mack and Dortch-Crozier decided that rather than fight or give up, they’d create.
“Watching a show like Broad City, there’s that warm sense of recognition, these women are saying stuff we’ve talked about,” said Mack, locating a sensibility for her take on reality. It’s an apt comparison, given that both shows speak to the “can’t live with, can’t live without” character of New York City.
“New York draws you in as this creative mecca, a place to pursue your dreams, but it’s also never been harder to just exist here,” said Mack, having lived in and out of the city over the last decade herself. “Yeah, the days of packing a suitcase and coming up here with $200 are over. But, the community this city builds, that’s still here,” said Dortch-Crozier, who re-connected with Mack after moving to New York two years ago from her home state of North Carolina, where the two originally met at an audition. “It’s fine with me if less come,” countered Mack. “I don’t need to run into any more sassy blondes at auditions.”
The show’s title creeps up several times in conversation. From scripting to funding, “it’s fine” has become a constant mantra for the project. “One woman said to us, ‘You know what ‘fine’ means? Feelings Inside Not Expressed’,” said Dortch-Crozier with Mack, as always, following quick behind. “One day it might actually become fine, like in the way Victorian ladies described a cup of tea.” Given how far they two have already gotten, that cup of tea doesn’t seem too far off now.