by Sherif Awad
Especially for www.MeetingVenus.com
- Born in Vienna, Austria as a daughter of a doctor, my musical background is led back to my maternal side: grandfather Hans (also a doctor) is a touring minstrel. As a girl I love singing, playing and climbing trees. My mom observes that I have a talent for movement, so I ́m attending ballet school with 3 years, having my stage debut at the age of five. And I get the chance to learn music instruments (xylophone, piano, flute, guitar) during the time I grow up.
- My childhood was deeply inspired by Danny Kaye, Robin Hood, D'Artagnan and The Three Musketeers - also my favorite costumes in childhood. When I was 9 years old, I was watching a musical performance of CATS in Vienna: the song and dance performances deeply touched my heart and soul, when the Broadway dancers - as cats - were climbing up the balconies of the theater, I instantly fell in love with musicals. Two years later, age 11, I was directing and choreographing my version of CATS with friends of my gymnastic club.
- As a teenager I started watching old MGM Musicals, falling in love with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. I was deeply inspired by film musicals like JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and HAIR. As a matter of fact I was spending most of my time in dance studios: some of the CATS performers also teach dance, so I am learning ballet, jazz, funk and tap dance from the best of the best: forever grateful to Michael Estes (CATS) and Karen Prunczik (42ND STREET). When was nineteen, I decided to quit my medicine studies in favor of studying musical theater in Vienna, one of my first roles on stage is LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD in INTO THE WOODS by Stephen Sondheim.
- I love learning, and being an artist is a gift itself: your body and voice are your instrument, you can learn new skills, new languages, develop new characters, hear and see things and worlds you haven't known exist. Or you even live in worlds that are pure phantasy! This natural, childlike curiosity about other beings (working with animals as acting preparation is fascinating!) and the world itself (real and phantasy) is both nurturing and inspiring for an artist, I think. When you do love adventure and exploration, surprising yourself and the audience, then you're on a good path. Sofor me, being an artist means to constantly learn and explore: your own self, other people, other countries, other point of views. These are the nice parts of the work.
And my advice for every artist would be: create. Stop talking and dreaming and do the work: Write, sing, dance, paint, compose, make pottery or arrange flowers. Whatever it is how you can express yourself and a part of your soul - do it.
The other thing that comes with being an artist is dealing with failure and success. Being “in the light”, jealousy, working and understanding the media, the difference between public and private life and juggling your vulnerability (the most precious part of your artist’s soul) with the “toughness” of the business. That’s maybe the real challenge as an artist - stay sane and vulnerable while moving in an ocean full of sharks and nobody prepares you for that crazy (but wonderful) journey during acting school.
- I’m a storyteller within my art (I play, write, direct and produce films) - so the most important thing for me is to touch my audience, no matter if this is one single soul or thousands. So, if I can be a star for one single girl somewhere in a third-world country, and after seeing me on screen she feels encouraged enough to study and become a doctor or a lawyer, for example - that’s it. I’m absolutely fine with that. Honestly - we are all stars. Some are bigger, some are smaller. Shining light in times of darkness. Reminding us that we are all human beings, equal, blessed to live together on this wonderful planet Earth.
- I love being a woman - carrying the history of all women who lived before me within me, the hardship and the violence, ignorance, abuse and cruelty; but also our strength, grace and wisdom, our deep understanding and knowing, our joy and beauty, our charm, wit and our virtues. I guess both women AND men are facing challenges related to gender on different levels, as the whole world is changing, in private and in business. The Golden Age of patriarchy is over, but a New Age of equality is not fully implemented yet. It’s a change process, painful for the ones who don't understand that it's time to share their goods, their power and their privilege. As a white, middle-class woman I’m very aware of my “in-between position”: some white men are more privileged than I am and I’m fighting for parts of their cake“ (i.e. funding for films that I would like to produce). On the other hand, I’m more privileged than a POC lesbian woman in a country where homosexuality is forbidden by law. I can think about funding my film, she has to fight for her love and her life first of all and has neither time nor energy for telling screen stories. But I can be open for her story, do research and make this woman’s story the heart of my next film. That’s how I can use my privilege to support those of us who can’t raise their voice yet.
-Germany is a privileged, first-world country. Artists in our country are currently debating about diversity standards, equal pay and the difficulties of the compatibility of family and work. That does sound better than in other countries, in terms of gender equality and how women are portrayed on television (stereotyping) other countries might say about Germany that “we are stuck in the sixties”. The North European countries as well as Island, the UK and Austria are some steps further in terms of equal pay, equal funding, female leadership in film and diverse characters on screen. The percentage of women directing, producing, writing, or being a head of a department is still very low. And we are far away from equal pay for equal work. So we definitely have some room for improvement.
-I approach the new works I got by:
1. reading the script (most important for me; the end of a script and the “message” might also be crucial if I say yes or no)
2. what team is realizing the film
3. meeting (or at least talking) to the director/directress to find out if we are speaking the same creative language and are seeing the same vision of the film/character I am portraying
4. checking availability
5.character preparation and rehearsal process
7. promoting the film and/or the subject related to the film
-Equilibrium between private life and professional practice: Short answer: with the awareness that private life is as fundamental for me as my life as an artist. As a freelancer, it’s easy to work sixty or more hours/week - I have stopped doing that. Right now I am having at least 1,5 days completely free per week. Regular time-offs and travelling to other countries every three months. And on working days I have a healthy daily routine, mixed with time for my personal health (body movement, meditation, voice/music, learning, nourishment for body and soul), my art (acting & writing at the moment), film producing, coachings for women (I’m so passionate about supporting other women to rise), relaxation and private life.
- New projects: ACTING - ongoing role as a psychotherapist in Austrian TV series (Season 2 finished filming, currently in post-production) - ongoing role as a doctor in Namibian-German web series - character preparation for filming feature TRIPLE F*** in December (docudrama about nature conservation & climate activism) WRITING - writing screenplay for my first feature film as a directress PRODUCING - world premiere & festival tour for feature film FREAK CITY, a teenage love story of a boy and a deaf girl, produced by my production company COACHING - supporting some wonderful women on their individual career paths AND: I am going on holiday on Saturday, off to Spain for some sunshine and horse riding...