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Marina / Mata Hari

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Ivette Dumeng
May 3, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Director of Marina and Mata Hari.

What is your show about?
Marina Tsvetayeva, one of the greatest of Russian poets, and Mata Hari, the internationally celebrated exotic dancer--two remarkable creative souls--are caught up in the violent political upheavals of the early twentieth century and confront the inevitability of the forces aligned against them and their personal demons.

When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
At a very young age I knew I wanted to work in the theater. I didn't know I had the courage to do so until I started working with Terry Schreiber. I didn't know I could direct until I got my first directing gig and I haven't stopped working since. I love inspiring people. Theater is a magical synergy. Collaboration is the thread that weaves good theater together.

Why do you do theater (as opposed to film, or TV, or something not in the entertainment field)?
There's a danger to live performance more so than film or TV where there is an editing filter between the actor and audience. Theater is the actor's medium. An actor has to be up to the challenge of being so exposed. The director is integral too in preparing the actor to face that challenge, in bringing together every element, from script to lighting to scenery, and ensuring the performers have an environment in which to play and create the life of any given character. Having worked in all three mediums, I find the task of the director in orchestrating a play most intriguing and rewarding. You get to bring it all together and watch it come to life.

Why did you want to write/direct/produce/act in/work on this show?
Tatyana Kot is a very special woman. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and just underwent a double mastectomy, so this project is a labor of love for her and for the entire crew. It's pretty special to be a part of this. Mata Hari celebrated her body. Marina celebrated her mind. Tatyana, who is also a model and a poet, celebrates both in portraying these two women who faced their personal battles bravely. I directed Tatyana Kot in a short play that won her a best actress award and we wanted to work together again. Award-winning playwright Don Nigro, wrote these two plays with Tatyana in mind. I've worked with Andy Cohen (sound design) and Dan Stearns (lighting) before- their creativity and diligence makes it a pleasure to once again have them in my team. Hope Governali (costumes) and Natasa Trifan (choreographer) were recommended by Tatiana. They had worked on Salomé at The Flea together. Currently, I am shooting a film with Curtis Nielsen, who plays our MacLeod in Mata Hari. It really is a blessing to be able to work with and get to know all of my collaborators across multiple projects.

Which famous person would you most like to get a fan letter from: Denzel Washington, Maggie Smith, Ang Lee, Jennifer Lawrence?
Denzel Washington. He'd say: "Dear Team of Marina/ Mata Hari. It is an honor to write you this letter. I respect what you are doing and I think Mata Hari may be the one role I could not do. Best of luck! And to whom do I write this check to? Sincerely, D.Wash" We would reply: "Dear Denzel, Thank you so much for the kind words! Please make the check out to Breast Cancer Awareness. Yours Truly, The Team"

Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
Yes, I believe theater can bring societal change. Theater itself can be the change in the world we want to see, and it can shed light on issues that otherwise might be ignored. Our company, Nylon Fusion, is committed to producing plays that explore political, social and cultural awareness. That is our mission.