TAKE A TEN!

One Thousand Nights and One Day Actor, JEN ANAYA, answers 5 big questions and 5 little ones while on break!

1) Who or what inspired you to become a performer or enter into Theatre Arts?

Hmm. I don’t know that there was one person or thing. My parents played guitar and sang in church when I was growing up, so I was singing before I could speak. Playing a lamb in the school Christmas play was pretty momentous, it made me realize that on stage, one could be anything and people would listen, you could make them laugh and cry. Moving people seemed a worthy and engaging pursuit. My brother and I would write plays and songs and perform them with our marionettes. In high school I had an incredible Music Theater director who took a group of us to see the tour of The King and I in Tempe and she told me that if I wanted to, I could be a performer. That permission was all I needed.

2) Why is Theatre important to you?

Because it’s so POWERFUL!!! Nothing has the power to move the human spirit like theatre. Storytelling is powerful. The stories we tell matter. The way in which we tell them and the people that get to tell them matter so much.  I just saw Folk Wandering in the very theater our show will be in. It was GLORIOUS! I sat there and sobbed for pretty much the whole thing. Theatre has the ability to change our minds, to inspire empathy, unlock things inside of us. I once got to play a young woman whose mother, father and lover were all killed within minutes of each other. She sings a song as she holds her dead mother in her arms. After a show, an audience member came up to me and told me through tears that her mother had passed a few months before and she had found herself completely unable to cry since it had happened and had no idea why. She said seeing that moment broke something open in her and she was so relieved and grateful that her grieving could begin. That will always stay with me.

3) This show is so relevant to current events- what do you hope audiences take away from it?

That it’s all a story! That we have the power to create our stories, to change them!

I really hope that people walk away examining their perspectives of the world around them. I’ve long been fascinated by the Toltec concept of the Dream of the World, the collective beliefs we hold as a human race that get passed down from generation to generation and how powerful those stories are.This story, this show is an invitation for people to really sift through and examine those beliefs that dictate how we navigate through the world and decide if they’re helping or hurting. There is a shift happening in our society led by people who don’t believe the old stories anymore. It’s super exciting and inspiring and the more people continue to look inward, the faster the shift will occur and the better off we’ll all be.

4) Who would you most like to work with?

Oof. That is a heck of a question. Right now, I’m beyond ecstatic to be working with this company. I want to work with every single one of these humans as much as possible. Outside of that, people who really love collaboration, free exploration and do heart centered work in a heart centered way.

There’s a wonderful line from a wonderful musical called Found, it says “I wanna do something that I love and do it with people that I love.”

When it comes right down to it, the dream is to work with my friends. I’ve gotten to work with Marisa Michelson a lot in the last few years starting with Tamar of The River and then with her group Constellation Chor. Her work brought me back to New York.

There are so many ridiculously talented playwrights, composers and directors that I am lucky to be around and I really look forward to seeing their work get produced and would so love to go on that ride with them. I’m super moved by the work of Troy Anthony, Jillian Walker, Nic Grelli, Riley Thomas, Ty Defoe, Tidtaya Sinutoke, Keelay Gipson, Forrest Malloy, EllaRose Chary, Brandon James Gwinn, Matt Frey, Melisa Tien, Avi Amon. The list is so long. It’s a gift to know so many incredible artists.

5) What is coming up next for you?

I’m looking forward to going back to Friday mornings with Constellation Choir. The group has been the cornerstone of my artistic life in the last two years and I’ve missed it. I’m really excited to be a part of the upcoming musical Hatuey: A Memory Of Fire. It’ll have a workshop in late May and a run in September. And this summer I’ll be writing, working on a solo show I’ve been writing called Love: A How Not To Guide.

— 5 till places!—

6) Favorite album in high school?

For my 14th bday I asked my parents for the Time Life collection of Rock and Roll from 1954-1962. Listened to it nonstop for a long long time.

7) Cats or Dogs?

Dogs. And cats that think they’re dogs.

8) What are you reading?

Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby. It’s gorgeous and heartbreaking and it has another story written along the bottom of the pages. It’s a story alongside another story, which is pretty fitting.

9) Best way to spend your day off?

Ah sweet sweet sleeping in!! I stay in bed as long as possible on a day off. After that, running or dancing, spending time with friends, meditating, being outside if it’s not freezing, baths are wonderful, catching up on all the things I can’t seem to get to the rest of the week and skyping with my goddaughters!

10) What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Oh, I’ve been blessed to get to be around some very wise souls and have received some really great advice. There are two pieces of advice that have fully changed my life.  My best friend once told me that I should talk to myself the way I would talk to my own child. That has been an invaluable practice.  It’s amazing how negative and detrimental our language and attitude can sometimes be towards our own selves.  And, a long time ago, when I was struggling with who I should be and where I should go and what I should do, a woman took my hand and said, “Be here. Right now.” Not the easiest thing to manage, but I find that when I start to get overwhelmed by what is ahead, I remind myself that all I can do is be here, right now.

Today we sat down with One Thousand Nights and One Day Composer, Marisa Michelson, and got to play 20 questions with her! That’s ten big questions and a lightning round of ten little ones.

1) Who or what inspired you to become a composer?

While practicing certain piano pieces as a young child (I began learning to play at age four), I remember feeling as though something was lifting-melting-unfolding-leaping inside of me. Music gave me access to a rich inner world and all I wanted to do was spend more and more time adventuring inside of the space. I guess you could say Life-force inspired me to create and invent.  I’m lucky that exterior opportunities and resources allowed me to continue to spend time where I felt most alive.

2) Who haven’t you worked with that you would like to?

I would like to connect with and collaborate with Krista Tippett and the folks at the podcast/movement OnBeing.  That podcast has been such a gift to my life and I feel great resonance with Krista’s point of view: that the pursuit of wisdom and moral imagination is as important as the pursuit of knowledge. I can imagine creating improvised performance pieces with my ensemble (Constellation Chor) at their events, exploring theme through voice, something like that.  Yuval Sharon is someone I’d like to work with. And I’ve worked with her in the past in a very surface way, but I’d love to work in a deep way with Meredith Monk.

3) Whats one experience that inspired your music for #1k1Day?

In this moment what suddenly comes to mind is my experience of being in the desert in Israel many years ago.  I remember looking up at the stars and feeling like the sky was so close I could touch it.  I felt intimate with the sky, like I knew it in a new way.  I also felt the spaciousness all around me, like a wide open, horizontal parallel universe.  When I seek spaciousness in the music I’m writing, I call upon that experience and ask it to inspire me.  The Map (song in the show) has that space in it.  So does the Finale.

4) This Genre-Bending score is so exciting- But what kind of music do you listen to and who are your influences for this piece specifically?

I truly cannot name or list any influences for this piece specifically because that’s not how I work as a composer.  Rather, I’m made of all the music I’ve listened to and explored throughout my life, and what comes out of me when I write, comes from a subconscious place.  Usually I notice that music I create reflects what I’ve digested a few years prior, rather than what I am listening to in the moment.

But here are some favorites on my playlists whose names have definitely made it into the conversations I’ve had with Music Director Kurt Crowley : Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Bjork, David Gray, Bon Iver, James Blake, Nine Inch Nails, Meredith Monk, Steve Reich and minimalism in general, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Monteverdi…I also spent some months studying Hindustani singing in India when I was younger and that experience has certainly influenced this score.

5) How did you end up connecting with your Co-Creators?

Jason and I met in the Composer-Librettist Studio at New Dramatists in 2008!  We enjoyed writing a song together so much, and he asked me if I’d be interested in turning his play 1001 into a musical.   Erin and I met when she came to see TAMAR OF THE RIVER and we felt an immediate connection. We began exploring collaborative space, took a long hike and talked about our lives, and here we are!  I met Kurt and Karla through Erin, and thanks goodness. They are both miracles.

6) With this show did you start with lyrics or music first?

Jason’s play came first.  And the process has been really fluid.  Sometimes I’d sit in a room and bring him 4 bars of something, or an idea for a leitmotif, and other times he’d bring me lyrics.  My favorite times were when we lived in the same city and could be in different rooms writing the same song, checking in every twenty minutes to update the other on our work.

7) This story is so relevant and topical – what is one thing you want your audiences to take away from this experience?

I hope everyone feels moved to examine their own points of view and assumptions about others and about the world.  The narratives we create about others define how we view them.  When our narratives demean their humanity and limit their possibility for growth, that is never helpful or productive.  I mean this sincerely and no matter what your politics are or what your place is in this world.  I mean this for myself too. May I always be called to question my assumptions about others, again and again forever. May I always be open to changing my mind and may I allow others to change their minds.  May I not pretend I know another human being until I know them.  Knowing is a process.

8) Is there a character in the show you relate to most?

In my last musical Tamar of the River, I was 100 percent connected to Tamar’s emotional journey and motivations.  I remember watching that piece sometimes felt like watching my own inner journey.  But working on this musical is totally different: I don’t relate to any of the characters in the same way as I did with Tamar.  But I believe we humans contain multitudes within us.  It’s natural that we form our identity and feel separate from others, but we aren’t actually separate. And with this musical, I’ve gotten to know sides of myself I wasn’t previously in touch with.  Parts of me relate to parts of each character who sings.  But…Scheherazade is who I’d aspire to be.  Such bravery and clarity of purpose.

9) The company of this production seems to be really close knit! Did you collaborate with the performers as a part of your process?

Yes!  Chad Goodridge has been part of this piece since the very beginning!! He’s been part of every single iteration and knows this piece intimately.  He’s also part of Constellation Chor (my ensemble mentioned above) so he and I collaborate together every week.  Jen is also a member of the ensemble and a regular collaborator of mine.  And Sepi and Ben have been part of two readings previously.  The entire company is so so so special.  I am in awe of each person on our team, and my awe is renewed daily.

 

10) What is coming up next for you? and what do you hope for the future of this piece?

What?? Nothing exists in my heart except ONE THOUSAND NIGHTS AND ONE DAY!!!  🙂  Okay, but in June, NAAMAH’S ARK, my oratorio for five choirs/200 singers, will be performed in Rockefeller Park starring Victoria Clark as Naamah, and conducted by Ted Sperling.  Royce Vavrek wrote the libretto.

LIGHTNING ROUND!

Let’s get down to it!

1) What was your favorite album in high school? Little Earthquakes – Tori Amos

2) Where is your favorite place you have traveled? Israel, India, Iceland.  

3) Dogs or cats? Dogs forever.  

4) Favorite smell? Sweetgrass 

5) Train, walk, bike or uber? Bike!

6) What book are you reading right… NOW! Malcolm Gladwell’s The Outliers

7) If you could have a super power what would it be? Endless patience, unwavering (yet discerning) trust.

8) Favorite way to spend a day off? In Nature somewhere, phone far far away or broken, journaling, reading and receiving inspiration from Life.

9) Met or MoMA? Planetarium!!!!

10) Finally! We made it! — What is the best advice you have ever received? 

You can’t control things.  Life is about putting in effort and letting go of attachment to outcome.  Incidentally, this concept is what every single piece of music I’ve ever written is engaging with. Because I need to learn this lesson until it lives in all my bones.

*****************************************

MARISA MICHELSON is a multi-award winning writer of interdisciplinary music-theatre, choral work, and musicals, and is the founder of Constellation Chor, a vocal performance ensemble whose “sonic expressions, from ethereal sounds to primal screams, animalistic wails and simply breath” have been likened to “vocal innovators like Kate Bush, Bjork, Florence Welch and even Yoko Ono.” (StageBiz). Marisa is also a sought-after voice teacher.  Her music has been called “exquisite” (NYTimes), “otherworldly” (Steven Suskin), and “gorgeous…adventurous” (Vox Magazine). Her musical with Joshua H. Cohen, Tamar of the River (Prospect Theater Company, 2 Drama Desk Nominations) was highly praised as “one of the most extraordinary scores in years (Jesse Green – NYMagazine).  Marisa’s oratorio for 200 singers, Naamah’s Ark (with Pulitzer Prize winner Royce Vavrek, starring Victoria Clark) headlines the River to River Festival in June 2018.  As a performer, Marisa’s presence has been described as “commanding as a goddess yet vulnerable as a maiden.” (StageBiz) Awards: 2017 Creative Engagement Award (LMCC); Jonathan Larson Award. Residencies: MacDowell, Ucross, Blue Mountain Center, New Dramatists. www.marisamichelson.comwww.constellationchor.com

One Thousand Nights and One Day Actor, GABBY PEREZ, answers 5 big questions and 5 little ones while on break!

TAKE A TEN!

1) Who or what inspired you to become a performer or enter into Theatre Arts?

I never had that one moment as a child that crystallized for me, “I want to be an actor!”. I had plenty of incredible mentors and teachers, but none that inspired me to pursue this as a career. For me, it was always a given. Theater was — and is — the source of the greatest joy I’ve ever felt. As a child, dancing around the house, writing my own songs, and putting on shows was a daily occurrence. It was just so fun. It made me so, so happy. And that simply didn’t change; in fact, that joy solidified into purpose once I got older and began taking class. I realized that there was a technique to creation and performance, and that I could pursue it for my entire life. Not only was that worthwhile, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had. 

2) Why is Theatre important to you?

I honestly believe it can change lives. Obviously, it has changed my life in that it has given it purpose and passion. Theatre creates community and a sense of belonging. It brings actors, creatives, and crews together into a temporary family, and then we extend that sense of community to our audience. We go on a journey together in performance that only happens in real time; for the time that we are all in a theater space together (performing or witnessing), we are sharing a singular human experience that cannot be replicated ever again. It feels almost magical because it’s so important and fleeting and ephemeral. I can remember shows that I saw over ten years ago; it only lasted a few hours, but left a huge impact on me. Second, theatre can change minds. I love a funny musical with show tunes you can hum on your way home, but the most important work is the show that makes you question things you thought you knew, or plops some great truth about the human experience into your lap. 

3) This show is so relevant to current events- what do you hope audiences take away from it?

This one will make you think. It will make you uncomfortable and then make you laugh out loud. I hope audiences can see themselves in our show, regardless of their background. I hope they can take a step back and look at themselves, what they think they know and assume. We all learn things, be it in a school classroom, from parents, or from what we see on the evening news. This show is inviting the audience to not only identify what they have been taught, where they learned those lessons (and question whether they were even aware that they were being taught them), but also to assess if those lessons are really “right”. The assumptions and black-and-white answers from individual minds accumulate to our society’s collective narrative, and that holds real power. 

4) Who would you most like to work with?

I don’t know that I have a concrete list of names. Obviously, I admire many well-known theater artists, but I really just want to be in a room with kind people who are interested in making honest, pure art. I have absolutely found that in the cast and creative team for this show, “One Thousand Nights and One Day”. It is so important to me that everyone is open, generous, and trusts each other, and above all, that we all deeply care about the piece we’re creating. Love of discovery and play (without judgement) creates a sacred environment in which one can try anything, laugh a lot, and be vulnerable — all in service of the text we’re performing. 

5) What is coming up next for you?

This summer, I’ll be heading to Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre to perform as Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” and Lady Percy in “Henry IV”. After that, I’ll be heading to the Newport Music Festival in Rhode Island for a “West Side Story” concert series celebrating Leonard Bernstein. And hopefully a vacation! 

— 5 till places!—

6) Favorite album in high school?

I’m an old soul: I grew up listening to Bob Dylan, Santana, Aretha Franklin, and B. B. King. In high school, I was probably listening to some latin or blues album that dropped decades before I was born. 

7) Cats or Dogs?

Cats.

8) What are you reading?

I usually read historical fiction, but right now I’m reading “The Power of Habit”. It’s an examination of how the routines we unknowingly fall into shape our lives, and what it would take to recognize those habits and alter them for the better. It’s a bit scientific and clinical, but I find that it absolutely applies to my work as an artist.

9) Best way to spend your day off?

I am a huge proponent of self care. For me, that’s staying in my apartment or neighborhood, being with my favorite people, eating healthy food, sleeping in, yoga, getting a massage, reading, taking a bath. It’s different for every person, but finding those few things that help you to reset your brain and body to gear up for the coming week of rehearsals is key. 

10) What is the best advice you have ever been given?

The following is a quote that I re-visit very often as an artist. It is my reminder that even if I have a bad audition, a bad rehearsal, a low point of self-esteem, what matters is that we artists spend our lives discovering and bathing in the inarticulable truths of what it means to be a human being. To me, that is a very noble cause.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. 

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, 

whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; 

who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; 

but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; 

who spends himself in a worthy cause; 

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, 

and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 

— Theodore Roosevelt 

Thank you ten!!!

Gabby Pérez (Virgin Bride, Others) is an actor who sings, dances, and choreographs. She enjoys noodling on her ukulele and doing crossword puzzles. NY credits: ART/NY, Radio City, Joe’s Pub, Fringe Festival. National tour: Anything Goes. Regional credits include: Nina Rosario ( In the Heights ), Marian Paroo ( Music Man ), Portia ( Julius Caesar ), Anita ( West Side Story ). She is a big fan of rehearsals that thrill, challenge, and shock her; thank you to this visionary team for the joyous exploration.

About the show:

In mythic Persia, a daring young woman spins tales to save the kingdom and her life. In modern-day New York, a Jewish man and Palestinian woman fight to find love in a fractured world. This world premiere musical, adapted from Jason Grote’s critically-acclaimed play 1001, reinvents “The Arabian Nights,” colliding the contemporary and the ancient. Through a genre-bending score, it questions past and present images of the Middle East, exploring the power of story in our everyday lives.

How can I see it??

Performances for One Thousand Nights and One Day are Tuesday at 7PM, Wednesday at 7PM, Thursday at 8PM, Friday at 8PM, Saturday at 2PM and 8PM (no matinee April 7), and Sunday at 2PM (April 8 there is an added 7PM Sunday show, April 15 the matinee is at 5PM). Single Tickets are $25 – $55, with special rates available to Prospect Members. Tickets can be purchased by visiting: http://www.ProspectTheater.org or calling 212-352-3101.