This week’s TDQ Q&A is with director Marina Montesanti. Marina spoke to us about being a foreign female director in the New York theater, her influences and her upcoming play, “While She Sleeps.” Here is this week’s TDQ Q&A with Director Marina Montesanti:
The Daily Quarterly: What made you want to be in show business?
Marina Montesanti: My love and respect for the craft. At a very early age, I started to read all I could about theater history, plays, reviews etc. The love never faded, so it lead me to go above and beyond, work sleepless nights and be in every rehearsal room I could. The rest was a domino effect.
TDQ: Who was your favorite director growing up?
MM: Anne Bogart. Having access to her books in a different country gave me a sense of guidance and activated my directorial muscle in the best possible way. Consuming those books sparked so much and my admiration only expanded by seeing the work of her company, SITI, here in New York.
TDQ: What was your favorite play growing up?
MM: “The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?” by Edward Albee. I think I was very fascinated by how theatre can make space to unearth the controversial.
TDQ: Who are your influences?
MM: So many! I guess my top 10, whose work moves me to the core are: Michael Greif, Tina Landau, Rachel Chavkin, Anne Bogart, Edward Sheblak, Augusto Boal, Katori Hall, Erwin Piscator, Edward Albee, Athol Fugard.
TDQ: What was the best advice you have ever gotten?
MM: “Follow your instinct”. Very simple, but it changed my career once I stopped second guessing it.
TDQ: What was the worst advice you have ever gotten?
MM: When I was doing my thesis, I was assigned two instructors, that told me I was a “smart” director and would be successful if I directed “cannon plays” instead of work that reflected my culture.
TDQ: Have you found the atmosphere in New York any different or more difficult for female directors than it is in other places around the world you have lived/worked in?
MM: Being a woman and a foreigner limits opportunities anywhere in the world, but perseverance and the willingness to work from the bottom up opened a lot of doors for me. I was blessed with rare opportunities to be involved in high-level productions. I was mentored by revolutionary artists, whose training and knowledge allowed me to grow at a rate I could have never imagined. I am glad that bringing my experience as a woman and a foreigner result in work that merges gender, nationality and other aspects of identity seamlessly. I found my home in the American theatre. It fosters the development of new works, female voices, values theatre that raises modern ethical questions and has a groundbreaking community of artists.
TDQ: What has the response been of theater-goers in the past to the plays you have directed that were translated from Spanish and Portuguese?
MM: Sitting in the back of the theater and hearing people laugh, cry and have genuine reactions to the translated play, is the ultimate proof that a story can accomplish its purpose even if it was written for a different culture.
I think because I am academically and “street” fluent in three languages, my sensitivity usually catches those “weird” untranslatable moments. The task most of the time is to find similar ways of communication that can translate the essence of the scene. In those moments, I have found myself exploring humor, clown, and physical storytelling.
TDQ: Tell us about your upcoming production of “While She Sleeps”
MM: “While She Sleeps” is a translation of Jo Bilac’s Cucaracha, which was brought to New York by Mayana Neiva. It is a play about an eight-year coma patient and her pregnant nurse who aim for something new beyond hospital walls. Together, they find themselves battling a world that confuses reality with fiction, chance with fate, and the end with a new beginning. The play explores being close to death and wishing to be alive as well as being blinded by a routine and forgetting to live. While She Sleeps is a testimony that living is a courageous and beautiful decision to walk into the unknown.
TDQ: Where do you see yourself and your career in five years?
MM: Continuing directing new musicals and plays that are progressive and can ignite dialogue and discoveries from various points of views. I want to be working on material that defends the dignity of the marginalized and allow characters to be richly open about their multifaceted existence.