Reeling with inspiration from last night’s panel (a million thank-you’s to Judith Malina, Judith Sloan, Mallory Catlett, and Morgan Jenness – and Michael Premo, we missed you, but since you were arrested protesting and all, I guess we have to forgive you), it’s with pleasure that we premiere 3 socially conscious pieces at tomorrow’s Night of Director-Driven Work! If you plan to attend, please make sure to RSVP – we are already almost at capacity!
For a taste of what you’ll see tomorrow night, keep reading! Co-Curator Dina Vovsi interviews THE LECTURE’s director, Melissa Moschitto, about her piece as well as her company, The Anthropologists.
Dina: Tell us about your piece in the Salon.
Melissa: The Lecture is both a resurrection of a 1959 lecture given by Aldous Huxley and an absurd look at addiction and why it’s so hard for humans to change. It’s an ensemble-devised work that’s been created over the last month with a team of five fantastically imaginative actors, our insightful dramaturg and myself.
DV: You lead a company called The Anthropologists. A lot of emerging directors think about starting their own theater companies in order to produce their own work. How did The Anthropologists come to be, what is your mission, and how does your company serve you as a director?
MM: I founded The Anthropologists after living in the city for about four years and the company has just celebrated its 4th birthday. (Yay!) Partly it was to take control over my artistic work and it has certainly provided the most thrilling and direct avenue to cultivating my voice as a director and creating deeply personal art. However, the driving force was the desire to find a different way of working and making theatre. One of my major influences has been Compania Atalaya, a twenty-nine year old theatre company in Spain. They were the first company I ever experienced who had a dedicated ensemble of performers – many of whom had been acting with the company for almost a decade – and their style was intensely physical, rooted in Biomechanics. It was a revelation. I wanted to both immerse myself in that kind of work and bring it to the U.S., where aside from a few pockets here and there, it was largely absent. Of course, since then, both physical theatre and ensemble-based theatre has become much more embraced here. Our mission is to create original investigative theatre that inspires action. We value provocative questions about society, storytelling through movement and dance, collaborative theatremaking techniques, longterm creative relationships and building cross-sector partnerships with people who are invested in the themes we are exploring. That’s a mouthful, huh? Essentially, it’s all about this idea of anthropology: the study of people in space and time. Each show follows a different creative process and draws on different styles and influences, but ultimately, we’re about looking at people, what they do and why.
DV: Our theme this year is WORK FOR CHANGE. We’re curious this year about what it really means to be a working artist. Many theater artists have day jobs to support themselves – do you have a story about a day (or night) job that you can share?
MM: Oh my gosh! I am finding this question so hard to answer. The pressure is on to find a ridiculous story. I’ve had many non-theatre jobs since I moved to NYC: waitress, afterschool teaching aide, substitute teacher, sales associate in retail, event hostess, freelance writer, conference coordinator and now Volunteer Manager for Only Make Believe (a fantastic non-profit org here in NYC that brings interactive theatre to kids in hospitals). I’m sure I’m forgetting a few gigs too. While I experienced a few anxiety-producing periods of being “underemployed” I have been lucky to have steady employment. And truthfully, each of these jobs have played a their own important role helping me to become the theatre artist that I am today, most of all teaching me about people and patience (always working on that one). The worst job I ever had was showing apartments for a broker when I first got to NYC. I was so excited that I had this gig lined up; I never ended up closing any deals and instead, just got a big fat cell phone bill. Live and learn!
DV: What inspires you?
MM: Historical events, stories and quotes. I love reading Harper’s Magazine Weekly Review every Tuesday. It’s a bizarre and often poignant or disturbing compendium of news and events from all over the world. I appreciate their commitment to jarring juxtaposition, something I’ve tried to engage with more and more frequently in my work.
DV: What kind of advice would you give a director who is just starting out in New York?
MM: Take on every gig you can, especially during your first year. (My policy was always that I would take a job as long as I could tell my parents about it!!) It’s about meeting a lot of fellow artists and producers (some of whom will become collaborators later on), working in many different venues and getting a wide swath of experience. It will serve you well as a director if you also have had the experience of being a production manager, a stage manager, box office staff, etc. After that first year or so of collecting an eclectic array of gigs, draw your line in the sand. For me, that was saying, “Ok, now I’m going to take any and every gig as long as I can be directing (or assisting) or writing.” It’s important to be very clear about the career you’re trying to pursue, while at the same time, being open to many experiences.
DV: What’s next for you?
MM: I’m thrilled to be collaborating with longtime friend and playwright Daniel Ho on his new (and totally awesome and imaginative) play, Don Quixote at Tiananmen Square. It’s an epic and vivid story of a young man finding his voice and purpose set against the very real backdrop of 1989 Beijing. We’ve been in development for the past year and are now gearing up for an intense script development workshop with the ultimate goal of a full production next spring.
Melissa Moschitto’s director-driven piece, THE LECTURE, premieres at the Salon tomorrow night (Saturday, April 21st) at 7pm at the June Havoc Theatre at the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex (312 W. 36th St.). For information on how to RSVP, please visit our website or check us out on Facebook.
Melissa Moschitto (Director/Creator) is the Founding Artistic Director of The Anthropologists, a company dedicated to creating original investigative theatre that inspires action. Rooted in research and civic engagement and shaped by physical theatre techniques and rigorous dramaturgy, our work asks provocative questions through dynamic storytelling. Projects with The Anthropologists include Another Place (HERE), For the Love Of… (The Flamboyan/CSV), Give Us Bread (Milagro Theatre/CSV), Falling (4th Street Theatre/Flux Theatre Ensemble), The Columbus Project (KNF/Directors Company), Potatoes! (One Million Forgotten Moments) and The Potato Play (Milk Can Theatre Company). Other directing credits include: Daddy’s Black & Jewish by performance artist Lian Amaris (Nuyorican Poets Cafe), The Developer (Brooklyn Playwrights Collective), Walkabout or Reverse Continental Drift Syndrome (The Flea), Lola Got Bite (Gene Frankel Underground). As a playwright, her full-length play When Santo Domingo Isn’t Enough won Best Play at the 2006 Downtown Urban Theater Festival and was a Top Ten Finalist in Repertorio Espanol’s 2006 Nuestras Voces National Playwriting Competition. She holds a B.A. in Theater from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Melissa is an associate member of the League of Professional Theatre Women and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.