Monday, August 3, 2015

ACTING ALONE: Outstanding Solo Performances of 2015

Contributed by Conor O'Brien

Renowned American playwright Thorton Wilder is quoted as saying, "I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being."

This statement is further augmented when considering the raw power and unique challenges that comes from solo-based theater. One person, perhaps capturing a collection of voices or just one unique perspective, striving to share with an audience a true sense of something intimate and vital. Solo theater is truly an amazing representation of the innovative spirit of the performing arts!

There are six nominees for the 2015 NYIT Award for Outstanding Solo Performance.

Joe Assadourian
The Bullpen, Eric Krebs Theatrical Management, Inc

Christopher J. Domig
Dirt, DRECK Productions

Dominique Fishback
Subverted, Dominique Fishback

Sylvia Milo
The Other Mozart, Little Matchstick Factory

Tanya O'Debra

The Ultimate Stimulus, Felipe Ossa

Lucie Pohl
Hi, Hitler, Great Pretender Productions
We spoke with a few of them to see WHY they chose these particular roles/projects and what they found most challenging.

THE OTHER MOZART is the true, untold story of Nannerl Mozart, the sister of Amadeus - a prodigy, keyboard virtuoso and composer, who performed throughout Europe with her brother to equal acclaim, but her work and her story faded away, lost to history. Written and performed by Slyvia Milo, directed by Isaac Byrne. Produced by The Little Matchstick Factory. 

Why this project?
I received the inspiration to create The Other Mozart in 2006. I saw a small picture of the Mozart family portrait on a wall in Vienna and I began the research on who is the sister of Amadeus. She turned out to be a genius, forgotten and stifled because of her gender. I read books on Amadeus, then I read all the family letters. She emerged to me from those letters. Here was a woman Mozart, a child prodigy and composer, who toured with Amadeus as equals, but her work is lost and her story is not being told. I realized I may be the person who is to tell her story. I worked for years researching Mozarts and the situation of women, particularly women artists, during that time. I spent time in Europe, in the places where Nannerl Mozart lived or traveled through. I started to gathered a team of Polish and American theater professionals.

The result is an abstract concept of the staging and design, together with the emotional, direct telling of a great story, and then there is the music - sound design encompassing Amadeus and Leopold Mozart, Marianna Martines (a great female composer from Mozart -time Vienna) and new compositions of contemporary classical music.

What was the most challenging part of creating this project?
The Other Mozart is the first full-length play I wrote, it is also the first solo show I ever performed. And it was the first time I produced a theatrical run. I learned so much and continue learning through this show!

SUBVERTED portrays the destruction of Black identity as seen through the eyes of Eden, an 18 year-old girl living in any urban city in the USA. Through the colliding viewpoints of 22 friends, family members, and historical figures, Eden discovers that the promise of “equal opportunity” still, to this day, does not exist. She questions why the people she loves the most continue to live blindly subverted by an unrelenting history that they did not live through, yet inherit and must accept.

Why This Project?
The topics in Subverted are truly important to me. I believe that the issues addressed in the show need to be discussed; and more importantly, they need to be seen in the raw state that is Subverted. This way we can put a face, a name, a heart, a smile, and tears to the statistics and those living in the hood. In doing that more people would hear them [us] out. Subverted is raw, its harsh, its funny and its heartbreaking. Subverted is not for the faint hearted. Why should it be? If Black people in America are not allowed to be faint of heart because their [our] circumstances don’t allow for that, then to get a better understanding, the audience has to be infused in the struggle. Additionally, this time around producing Subverted, I was excited to see what a director, light, set, and sound designer who’ve all worked on Broadway productions, would add to a show I already loved so much.

What was the most challenging part of creating this project?
I would say that fundraising and being both a performer and first time producer was very challenging because I had to have many different parts of my brain working at the same time—the performer/artistic side and the business/marketing side. I’m an artist at heart so the business aspect was never really my thing, but I did it and now I know that I'm capable. I also had an awesome director and assistant producer who really made things easier for me.

DIRT focuses upon the character Sad. Sad is an Arab living in our city in 2014. He loves the English language, and America too. He is thankful for the life he is “allowed” to live in this country, and is sensitively aware of his rights – and lack thereof. He is careful about what he says and does, to the point that he remarks repeatedly he has never once sat on a park bench in this city. To Sad, the benches are reserved for the people he at once admires and abhors, including the 40-year-old men that buy his roses but refuse to look him in the eye. He resents their behavior yet feels obligated to respect them, and the exploration of this conflict drives the entire play. Written by Robert Schneider, translated by Paul Dvorak and directed by Mary Catherine Burke.

Why This Project?
I was amazed that no one was interested in doing the English speaking production of DIRT, even though the subject matter of an immigrant was and continues to be extremely relevant. It was a story that no one wanted to tell, and I felt strongly about giving the character of Sad a voice.

What was the most challenging part of creating this project?
DIRT is about the struggle that so many immigrants face on a daily basis. Sad's struggle in DIRT doesn't end well. It took a lot of energy to allow Sad to fight for a solution, instead of giving into despair. As an actor I know how the story will end, but as the character every night, I had to be hopeful, searching and fighting for the right to be be heard. This took quite a toll on my emotional well being, but was worth it each and every performance.

For more coverage of the 2015 IT awards season be sure to follow this blog!

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