Stand Up 4 Multicultural Food & Music & Ariana Grande Goodwill Ambassador

Image result for ethnic food multicultural foodsI was enjoying my toasted bagel with butter and Marmite this morning and another post came to  mind. I wait for inspiration to hit before I write a new post. I learned about Marmite while living in London. I discovered many things while living there aside from the lovely savory salty spread including Kate Bush, my very favorite female singer songwriter. My thoughts today are, as we struggle with interiors of the legal system in our own country and outside territories and our relationships with them, I choose to rejoice with the sharing of cultures.

Imagine your life without Sushi from Japan, Chinese Fried Rice and Dumplings, German Knockwurst hot dogs and beer, Ukrainian Babka, Mexican Tamale, not to mention Guacamole (personal favorite) or Greek Spanakopita, French Crepes and Brie Cheese and Russia’s Beef Stroganoff, Borscht…on and on and on…Multi cultural cuisines we all enjoy and maybe even take for granted, outside of the USA’s Fried Chicken, Hamburgers & Hot Dogs.

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After all we made our own versions of many foods first created beyond our shining sea & shores. You do it your way, we will do it ours. There have been no arrests or protests or violence around our making a new kind of hot dog. Not to my knowledge.
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And the music from Yo-Yo Ma (French, Chinese American), Mikis Theodoraki with his song Margarita.

Image result for live aidRemember LIVE AID FEED THE WORLD-musicians from all over the world coming together to Feed the World.  That might never happen today.

Will the bombing in Manchester create new fear among musicians for touring or playing large arenas? Or will there be the stand up and do it attitude, the you can’t stop us mind set, like Ms Grande and her team decided to do with a concert immediately following the disaster. Bravo. A brave artist in deed.

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Let our food, music, religious, love preferences be what they will. As long as we are not hurting anyone with our preferences. 

Gender Confusion or Gender Fluidity

Gender specific labeling seems to be something young people are playing with or even not settling in with or committing to in the midst of all the non commitments we are seeing. Relationships, governments, incomes, cell phones, computers, software, safety – all changing moment to moment. Oh FAST TIMES AT EARTH HIGH.

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Change is consistent and it seems to be creating a more obvious uncertainty for the future. Shall we crawl into a small space and hide or look and see what we can contribute? I read an article in the paper today, which prompted this post, about a teen girl in Long Island, NY who has changed her gender identity 3 times and wants to change again and the high school is now saying…no more. Can we be a fluid gender society?  Eventually when the teens of today inhabit the earth? Do we have to label ourselves anyway? Labels and branding is all around us…so brand yourself female or male or not. Or gender-less.

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There are many that love the gender they were born. How many of us question what would my life be like if I was born a…not often but have you asked yourself that question ever? It is a curious thing.

Here’s a tune I wrote in 2001. Seems relevant now. So I share…contributing to the thoughts around gender fluidity.

https://soundcloud.com/denisemarsaproductions/gender-nation-denise-marsa-feat-zay

My interview with composer Svjetlana Bukvich

My interview with composer Svjetlana Bukvich regarding her upcoming June 1-3 performances with Janis Brenner & Dancers at Gibney’s Agnes Varis Dance Center, New York

I had the opportunity to work with Kennedy Moore who runs ASK A NEW YORKER interviewing various artists in NYC for AANY Entertainment column. I really enjoyed the experience and have decided to add the occasional interview to my website/blog. I have been told I ask interesting questions so my asking…continues. Enjoy! 

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About the Artist: Integrating the leading-edge technology with her classical training and bold, yet sensuous style, Sarajevo born and New York City-based Svjetlana Bukvich has been billed by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) as a “concert composer/performer whose music defies boundaries”.

Set up & interview: 

So I interviewed you back in March of 2016 for Ask a New Yorker when your 2nd collaboration with Carolyn Dorfman Dance Traces was about to premiere at the NJPAC CDD Gala. Now a new piece ONCE YOU ARE NOT A STRANGER, you were commissioned to write for Janis Brenner & Dancers, is having its third premiere in two weeks. The US premiere took place April 8 at the Dance Hall in Kittery, Maine, and the NYC premiere will be June 1-3 at the Gibney’s Agnes Varis Dance Center, New York. The first time the piece was seen was on an international scale, February 10, 2017 at the National Theater Sarajevo as part of XXXIII Sarajevo Winter Festival – The Silk Road Art, which you helped to facilitate. The work received the 2016 O’Donnell-Green Music and Dance Foundation, Inc. grant. My first question is:

  • Which came first, the grant or the booking at the festival?

Thanks, Denise. The booking of the festival came first. As is often the case, there will be an interest, a spark, an inspiration between those who run festivals and those who (will) populate them. Then, the “how” comes into play, and it is as unpredictable as the next rainbow in the sky.

  • Did having the international exchange help the choreographer with her grant?

I believe it did, but then again, the grant that we applied for as well and that was specifically for American artists doing work abroad we didn’t get – USArtists International. In fairness, though, I was the recipient of this grant with another company the year prior, so maybe that had something to do with it.

  • If yes then you are now defining your work as a “creative artistic exchange facilitator” (my new title for you!) between NYC, USA and your country of origin?

Grateful for the title. Actually, I just took on the leadership of the artistic section of the Bosnian Herzegovinian American Academy of Arts and Sciences (BHAAAS). I hope to do more work with fellow artists from my homeland that are here and have “two brains” like I do. These times are calling for an increased awareness of, well, everything! This new piece, too, lives in worlds of empathy and “otherness” and attempts to show what it means to try on someone else’s shoes. Knowledge and courage is what we need now.

  • Tell me how that works? Was the Sarajevo performance part of the grant? I know it went extremely well! Congrats!

Thanks! This grant specifically champions new works for music and dance. I think that they have liked the overall package, including the very meaningful and timely tour to Sarajevo, but even more so the chance for the new work to be seen on this turf, and with live sound. It is also a 45 minute multidisciplinary work, with expanded lexicons in all mediums involved, and that’s a good thing.

Still, I believe that getting a grant has to do with the chemistry between the work and the circle of panelists who served in a particular cycle. Their background, expertise, and the type of morning they had that day – all play into the final decision. At the end of the day, it is about emotion. The world runs on that fuel.

  • Tell us how do you go about finding these incredible women to collaborate with or do they find you?

Yes, thank you, they are incredible. Carolyn Dorfman found me online and called me on the telephone.  We went on to create a very strong bond – our visions for our work combined are aligned. Jeanette Stoner heard of me through her dancer whose son goes to school with my son. Jeanette and I were love at first sight. Our work was a hyper strong match, and I don’t know how to write about Jeanette without writing a litany. I was fortunate to take Janis Brenner’s Moving, Sounding and Acting workshop at Movement Research in NYC in 2004. Her work with Meredith Monk intrigued me deeply and I just love everything she did with Michael Moschen, and a plethora of other unfathomable creatures. She sings and talks and moves and thinks while inhabiting multiple highways. I do that in my work too. I call it ‘the flow’. It’s what interests me more and more. It is also how it was when I was little. Then there was this ‘huge and nasty’ specialization gap. “License they mean when they cry liberty!” rings true in arts education today as it does in Milton’s 17th century. But back to Janis. We also have mutual friends. After I came from the Sarajevo tour in April of 2016, we started talking.

  • Who came up with the title, ONCE YOU ARE NOT A STRANGER you or Janis? Tells us a bit about the piece both visually and sonically.

Janis and I conversed about things that interested us and empathy came up right away, as did the need to really hear one another. I spoke about walking in someone else’s shoes – feeling wise – and how that impacts the strangeness in any relationship. Next time we got together Janis had the title and it stuck. I can’t imagine it now being called anything else, especially after the Sarajevo tour and workshops Janis and the company conducted there and in the city of Mostar.

Visually, the piece unfolds in wavy patterns which “freeze” on occasion, or so was our intention. There is a hanging set piece onto which video is projected in the same fashion. With each unfolding, messages becomes clearer, there is a shedding, a letting go, a cutting into deeper layers of pain and, yes, beauty and goodness which lurk in all of us. Like taming a wild animal, the piece comes to terms with its audience. The music is complex and electronic at first, then becomes gradually acoustic, with a string quartet, then a voice, a scrape of a shoe, and into silence. Art-rock-meets-electronic experimental-meets-old world sentimental.

  • How many times did you visit the rehearsals before composing for it or was it ongoing?

It was ongoing, back and forth, helped with video clips sometimes. Meeting and seeing the dancers is always a must. We had probably 5 rehearsals together. Janis was wise to put me in their hands to move and speak with them. We work-shopped a difficult subject – my dad’s passing in Sarajevo on 9/11. I was in NYC at that time. There was a feeling of trust and interdependence established. I gave them a piece of my heart, as they gave me theirs when I sent them to Sarajevo to do good- and as they do every time they move to my sounds.

  • Are you ever influenced music wise by any particular dancers in the company or do you mostly focus on the creative director’s direction – vision and feedback?

Everything is connected, but the choreographer/composer playground is where the final shapes are manifested. Janis consistently gave me succinct and musical feedback. A blessing, really. In this way, working with choreographers can be more rewarding than, say, with the type of filmmakers who solely rely on temp tracks to do “the talking” with the composer. For me, getting the feel for the right tempo is the same in dance as it is in film. The body is key and it doesn’t lie.

  • How do you figure out how much to charge for a commission?  Explain the process.

These terms can be found in publications (such as Meet the Composer Commissioning Guide) which help composers and those seeking to hire them determine the fee. Most of the times the context determines the amount. Both parties need to want to make it work- for the work to happen, often times, one side ‘gives in’ a little. Professional experience is supremely useful here.

  • How is working with a collaborator for the first time, different than working with a collaborator a second time?

This is a very good question. Collaborating first time around is a more sheepish dance and if the work is successful, the thrill is that much bigger later on. There is wonder in discovery and a sense of ‘love is in the air’ as the work gains ground. The second time around there is more freedom to “go for it”, and also more counting on the collaborator to do the right thing, because now you know his/her strengths. This can amount to more work for one side or the other, however in the end, it is like watching a glorious sunset. I feel calm and accomplished.

  • How are the egos kept in check?

Collaboration is an art form. In my experience, usually the more well known the person, the kinder and more egoless the person tends to be. I learned this in grad school when working with composer Robert Ashley. I was impressed by him beyond measure. At the time I came from Europe in my twenties, thinking I knew everything, ha!

  • Pick the top 3 wish lists for choreographers/companies you’d love to work with over the next few years.

Mark Morris Dance, New York City Ballet, and New York City Ballet.

Thanks Svjetlana, and we wish you the best of luck with this project and all work ahead!

For more about Svjetlana please visit: www.svjetlanamusic.com 

For more about the event: https://gibneydance.org/venue/gibney-dance-agnes-varis-performing-arts-center/

Visit Denise’s company: www.keymediapublicrelations.com

“Fidelity to the Action”

Herbert & UtaTonight I sat in on an acting class at Herbert Berghof studios, not far from my home.  The instructor was Michael Beckett and it was very informative and I appreciated the tone and depth of Mr. Beckett’s style of teaching. I watched 3 duo’s of actors work on improvisational scenes. The comments afterwards were my focus and I related much of what Mr. Beckett said, to my own show, in connection to my words and my intentions. The title of this blog post comes from Mr. Beckett. I think they are great words.

I have not taken yet alone sat in on an acting class since I was a theater major at University of Arizona and it felt good. I want to hone my skills in both acting and singing as I start to present THE PASS.

An interesting part about tonight is the instructor mentioned to two actresses after their scene that he’d like them to do the first scene from MY SISTER EILEEN in next week’s class. The ironic thing is, in my last blog post I shared a bit about the video shoot (sizzle reel).  I actually mention the sisters and the book, as they lived around the corner from where I live. It was surreal when he said that, there are thousands of plays to pick from. Ironic? The universe is very telling, when you listen.

I think sitting in on an acting class  (Acting 1) is a great idea, even if you are not wanting to act professionally. It is a way to look at yourself and the psychology of every day life, as if you are someone else. After all, people go to the theater, or watch TV or their computers, so that they may watch others in action, living.

Worked with Gretchen Cryer yesterday, the first time in  months! It went so well and the vignettes are complete and we are ready to fine tune the piece. We have picked three tentative dates for the first salon run-through: July 27, Aug 3 or Aug 10. Will depend on the musical director and the pace of the fine tuning…

Hmmm…that’s all I can say other than it sure was a hot day in NYC!

Oh New York, New York! Here’s a song I worked on about The Big Apple, with Rachel Millman singing!

Herbert Berghof & Uta Hagan featured in photo.

Action, Take 2 & How Do I Look?

Had a great 4 hours today working with Grumpy Films’s Daniel Sears and Jason Jude on a sizzle reel to promote THE PASS. I answered questions, played a few pieces from a few songs featured in the show. I even read a vignette about the time I walked out on a London stage, the first performance of the LUCKY STARS tour with Dean Friedman, in 5 inch heels! Talk about shaking in my knees.

We walked around my neighborhood in the West Village and in particular the corner of Gay & Christopher Street. I was pointing out points of interest including a former neighbor’s home Ruth McKenney where she worked on My Sister Eileen which later turned into the Broadway musical Wonderful Town.  Ruth and her sister Eileen, an actress, lived in one of my landlady’s building’s when her father owned it. I also shared how friendly all the neighbors were when I first moved in, this very intense guy always said hello to me as I anxiously walked down Gay Street to the NYU piano rooms to practice. Turns out it was the radical lawyer and civil rights activist William Kunstler.

The funny thing is writing THE PASS has given me a 90 minute look at my life with an original soundtrack score to add to the drama & laughter.

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Sweeney Todd & The Hairy Ape

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There is so much entertainment on offer everywhere these days; it is a pleasure to go to real theater. Nothing beats its authenticity. Last week I saw “Sweeney Todd” at the Barrow Theater. I did find the violence of the story a tad bit unsettling, as it was more in your face with this intimate production.  It was still–pure entertainment. Not only were the voices and the performances powerful and intense, particularly that of Norm Lewis who has just taken over the lead role, but the pies were tasty! Obama himself said it will be “the best pie you have ever eaten.” Having enjoyed the vegetable pie immensely, I concur.

On a more serious note, I also saw Eugene O’Neil’s “The Hairy Ape.”

Hairy ape

This play was also intense; with a human – animal comparison throughout the piece. I admired it, as “enjoyment” is not the right word to apply. Set in 1922, pre-Depression era New York, the main character Yank finds himself “at sea” in a life dominated by wealth and greed. He longs to be valued as an honest hard worker, skilled in the ways of sailing and coal slinging, yet his values are not prized in the world that employs him. When he sets his eyes on the President of the company’s daughter, his life is altered forever. I left the theater feeling a little bewildered, curious yet inspired. I can’t imagine anyone else other than Bobby Cannavale playing the lead role. The venue and the production were incredible; I thought holding it at the Park Avenue Armory really fit the material. PAA3

One of the sweet things to come out of my theater-going experience was meeting Elaina, (Sweeney) who runs Big Smile Entertainment out of Boston. Looks to me like she runs an outstanding organization!