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To Carry On--A Tribute to the Life & Music of Laura Nyro

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Mimi Cohen
September 19, 2012

What is your job on this show?
Playwright/Performer.

Do you consider yourself a writer who also performs, an actor who also writes, or something else?
I don't consider myself a writer. I'm a singer who was driven to writing. When Laura Nyro died, I was so upset, I thought she would be utterly forgotten. I wanted to find a way to make a grand, concrete statement about the impact of her life on the world, not just put together a set of her songs. I wanted to do research, interview people, and get immersed in all things Laura Nyro. After I did that, I took a playwriting class taught by Gretchen Cryer and lo & behold, the singer became a playwright.

If this is your first appearance in United Solo -- why did you want to be part of this festival?
I wanted to be a part of the United Solo Festival because it is an organized community of theater people who care about the genre and want to present new works. Being an independent, novice theater person can be isolating. Being part of this community gives me a feeling of affirmation about my project. Acceptance in the festival motivates me to keep carrying on.

In your own words, what do you think this show is about? What will audiences take away with them after seeing it?
The metaphor for "To Carry On..." is, when you find your voice, you find yourself. I want the audience to leave the theater thinking two things. One; "Stereotypes be damned! I'm gonna dress how I feel, sing as loud as I feel, say & do as I feel, even if it means describing my music as purple. And, I will be unafraid to take responsibility for all my mistakes. I want to own myself!" Two; "I've got to go to iTunes, RIGHT NOW, and download all of Laura's music!"

Which famous solo performer has been most inspirational to you: Spalding Gray, John Leguizamo, Lily Tomlin, or Whoopi Goldberg?
Lily Tomlin, without a doubt! I saw "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life..." when I was a kid. The crazy homeless lady who's waiting by the stage door with her shopping cart is constantly touching herself - slapping her forehead, her backside, her legs, any and every place she can reach. Finally, after many scenes of this, she stops talking, looks into the audience and says, "I love Post-Its." I saw yellow paper all over her body. It was extraordinary.

Theater is a necessary ingredient in democratic societies. Do you agree or disagree, and why?
Yes, theater is a necessary ingredient in democratic societies and even more essential in repressive societies. Exhibit A - The Belarus Free Theatre. Theaters are the first artsy places a totalitarian government will censor and close down. Theater is threatening because it's so immediate. A group of people can stand out on a street corner and spontaneously make a scene about what's going on with the government, or any subject that irks the collective zeitgeist. You don't need a camera, an instrument, or even a canvas. The play is created directly from the minds and bodies of the players. People walking by witness the play. In the moment. No tickets to buy. Theater is intrinsic to the human experience, I think. There will always be theater in organized societies because the people of the society will always need it.