Actor, Writer, and Director
New York, NY
In terms of dealing with life’s obstacles and challenges: Nothing makes you jump like hurdles.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.” –Mary Oliver (from Wild Geese)
What/who inspires you as an artist:
Art/Design: Michelle Doll, a dear friend whose work I adore, . Frida Kahlo. I wrote a play about her entitled “Frida Liberada” (Frida Set Free). I am drawn to Mexican folk art – sugar skulls, tin wall art, and those amazing altar colors – oranges, fuchsias, golds and ceruleans.
Beauty: I was 40 before I realized I had natural curls/waves, so Deva Chan is a favorite product. And I love Bobbi Brown – her philosophy about revealing beauty, as well as her products.
Culinary: Michael Pollan and Alice Waters. I’m a big supporter of the Slow Food Movement. Guilty pleasure: I’m a sucker for a Japanese steak house!
Fashion: Black Halo by Laurel Berman – she makes dresses for women with curves. “Cowboy boots, baby! You can walk in them ALL day long and look cool.” Now if I were independently wealthy, I think I would wear Lauren, lots of Ralph Lauren.
Film: Sorkin for his great dialogue; Alexander Payne and Sofia Coppola for the way they tell stories on film; I love pre-Hays code movies. 1920s and 30s, when women are portrayed as powerful, sassy, and independent. Makes you think Hays was a real db, right?
Documentary: Anything by Ken Burns.
Actors: Kate Blanchett, Shirley McClaine, Anne Bancroft, Diane Wiest, Helen Mirren, Madeline Kahn (a comic goddess), Daniel Day Lewis, and Jeff Bridges.
Literature: Haruki Murakami, Vladimir Nabokov, Dorothy Allison, Tennesse Williams, Grace Palin, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Pablo Neruda, Rumi, T.S. Eliot, Mark Twain, Anton Chekhov, Pearl Buck and Carson McCullers.
Music: If I’m gonna’ sing something it will be the blues (“Steamroller Blues” is a favorite). But for listening, opera or Art Tatum & Ben Webster while I cook and dine; Corinne Rae Bailey, Gladys Knight, or Patti Smith in the car; Ray LaMontagne and Eva Cassidy for Chilling, and I love to dance, so ANYTHING that makes my body want to move, from West African drumming to Earth Wind & Fire to Mary J. Blige.
Online: Etsy-Novica-Stumbleupon-pinterest-arborday.org-kiva.org –justgive.org
Photography: Robert Mapplethorpe, Shirin Tinati ( NYC-based)
Stage: My friend, playwright Rob Askins! I never miss Ariane Mnouchkine and Théâtre du Soleil when they come to town. I try not to miss Complicite, Simon McBurney’s theatre company, when they perform in the States.
Television: Current favorites on the DVR list: Homeland, The Good Wife, Blue Bloods, Law & Order, Louie, & Mad Men (not filmed in NYC, but SO good). Reality: Project Runway/. Vintage
TV: West Wing, Twilight Zone, Star Trek(s), Slings & Arrows, Prime Suspect (UK version)
Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do: I can’t remember exactly how old I was (10 years old maybe) but there was a question on a literature test to give an example of a metaphor and a simile. I wrote a short poem about the night sky to illustrate both. The teacher was so impressed that she uncharacteristically had me read my exam poem in front of the class. That was it. I was a goner.
What are you trying to communicate with your art? We are spiritual beings having human experiences. The journey is about opening, unfolding, discovering, connecting to your humanity in order to become more aware, conscious, compassionate, and to ultimately realize your connection to everything alive. I want to create art that illuminates, inspires and moves audiences to evolve into more conscious, compassionate creatures. I create what I respond to: Art that is at once a mirror and a window. There is nothing like a great story well told — your journey connects to the journey of that story.
Any exciting projects on the horizon: I’ve written my first pilot, FIDELITY CLEANING, a collaboration with actor Erica Bradshaw, who starred with me in Eve Ensler’s The Good Body.
I have been commissioned to write and direct a one-woman show about Julia de Burgos, the famous Puerto Rican poet for an adult education outreach program. The project is currently being considered for an NEA grant.
I am slated to star in a film shooting this Spring in New York, Paris, and Amsterdam entitled DARK HALLS. It’s based on real life interviews with victims of an international sex trafficking ring.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet:
I’ve written shows for other actors, but not for myself. So writing and performing a one-woman show is something on my horizon. It terrifies me, which is a good indication that it is something I need to do.
What are your greatest accomplishments in the industry:
Receiving an MFA in Acting from Carnegie Mellon University & the Moscow Art Theatre, with honors. I lived in Moscow for 4 ½ months while we studied at the Moscow Art Theatre. It was incredible training.
I’m proud of the work I did with Anna Deavere Smith and the Institute on the Arts & Civic Dialogue. And the work I did with Eve Ensler (V-Day, The Vagina Monologues) was particularly fulfilling. We had these huge audiences of women who laughed, cried, cheered and connected – it was true community.
But the work I’m the most proud of is “Lives of the Times” – an intergenerational theatre project I founded and led with director Daniella Topol at The Actors’ Fund Home. Actors in their 20’s-30’s partnered with actors in their 80’s-90’s to perform an elaborate staged reading of 6 true stories from the New York Times. Performances were mounted at the assisted living homes in NJ and NYC. The project culminated in a performance at the United Nations, hosted by the Netherlands, in preparation for The Second World Assembly on Aging in Madrid, Spain in 2002.
What one thing that has happened in your life has made the biggest impact on who you are today: Being from a big family, I am the youngest of seven children, creates a kind of fearlessness that is sometimes mistaken as confidence. My father was a gifted athlete and physical prowess was a real badge of honor in my family. We all got very good at just going for it, without thinking too much. You learn to just jump off the cliff with a rebel yell and hope for the best. Not jumping was never a viable option. I also have 3 older sisters who give me heads up on all kinds of things. And I love being crazy Auntie Brigitte living on the cliffs overlooking Manhattan. I think my big family is why I treasure my solitude, because no matter how alone I am, I never feel lonely.
What makes you truly happy: The Seven C’s: Consciousness (It all starts with awareness, baby), Clarity (of path/purpose), Commitment (to my path), Confidence (in my abilities, talents, skills, effectiveness, value), Consistency (holding focus, progressing, unswayed and invigorated by obstacles/challenges), Collaboration, and Community (a thoughtful group of people who value me and to whom I am of use.)
What keeps you balanced and sane: I struggle with this. Since I don’t have a lot of routine in my work, it’s important for me to create it – morning journaling, a food diary, communication with my husband, daily exercise, keeping in touch with friends and family. I have found that isolation can magnify imbalance, so when you feel out of whack, reach out, get out, connect. And nature heals me. A long hike in the Palisades with my husband and dog provides me with my biggest intake of grace.