by Sherif Awad
-I actually come from a pretty artistic family. Everybody on my dad's side is a musician or composer, and my dad was a drummer in a popular rock band in Slovenia when I was growing up. So, sometimes as a three-year-old, he would just put me on stage and I would play the tambourine with the band, so I got to start loving the stage really early on. Then, when I was in third grade they made me play a witch and a Slavic Folk fairytale about the 10th child in a school play. At first, I was resistant but when I tried out for it. Everybody was completely stunned and I felt like I was possessed, I was channelling. And that’s how I got the bug. Ever since I knew I wanted to be an actor and still to this day being on stage is one of my biggest passions and most blissful moments in life.
-There were some popular local singers that I was impressed by such as Croatian Tajci, but Madonna, Whitney Houston, Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly were all fascinating to me. I was also obsessed with Dirty Dancing. I would watch it every day when I came home from school. I would do two things; first, I would climb up on our cherry tree and then I would watch Dirty Dancing over and over and over again. Funny fact, at four I was also obsessed with a big time Slovenian ski star Mateja Svet who I was actually certain was my older sister. Whenever my parents put me in the car I eagerly asked if we’re going to visit her and then if she knows me. If the answer was negative screaming and crying ensued and a couple of times I even threatened to jump out of a driving car.
-When I moved to New York I contacted the only American playwright I knew and asked her if she had any “one woman shows” I could perform. She never got back to me and eventually I kind of figured out that I have plenty of crazy life experiences and that I should write a show for myself! Which I did and that’s how Cocktales- Confessions of a Nymphomaniac came into being. I feel like being able to produce your own content in New York at some point became indispensable in the thirst to be seen and to prove oneself. When another load of crazy shit happened to me, I wrote Wild Child in The City which took me altogether about two weeks, maybe three tops. Then I was obsessed with Marlene Dietrich, so studying her biography and writing my own play about her was inevitable, since I also knew a producer who was interested in producing a play about her. Never mind he disappeared, but we got it made :-) The Female Role Model Project came out of sheer frustration of always seeing the same kind of women being cast for the same kinds of roles as if a woman can only be a romantic lead, an innocent ingénue or a ballsy unlikeable bitch. I didn’t like the monotony and stereotypical women roles in theater, and all media actually, so I felt really charged to tell a story about that and move into gender discourse. And on top of that I developed this crazy hobby, obsession with neuroscience: so there you have it-The Female Role Model Project was born.There is no school to tell you how to be a creator- you have to be charged, fueled by a desire to tell something, and then you have to be persistent enough to move through all the obstacles, and ups and downs of producing, and after you’ve done it many times, you become comfortable with it and you know that is just the way it goes. But there is no way of knowing that or even building stamina for it unless you actually do it. Writing, producing, giving your work to the world is the hardest thing you’ll ever do but it’s also the best thing that you’ll ever do.
-I feel like things have changed a lot in the last 10 years that I’ve lived in New York. I feel like we’re finally getting to the root of a lot of more complexity and different types of people being featured in the theater and different kinds of stories being told. So, I’ve been seeing really nice progress. In comparison: let’s say Slovenia whose theater I know very well and love, Slovenia has always been ahead of them in terms of complexity of women’s roles but there is much less involvement of LGBTQ community that’s really on the rise in the USA.
-I actually feel like being in the arts in New York is being in the toughest, the least funded profession possible. In this way the blessing of a location, the blessing of a talent, or the blessing of a possession that you must do arts is almost counterproductive (a curse) because there’s so many people trying to do the same thing, and the funding is so restricted and hard to get to. New York is an obsession though and nearly impossible to try to walk away from it because of the energy. Because of the versatility, because of the liberty of expression in quickness of life, it’s magnetic. In a way it’s beautiful because you’re in the centre of it all but also so difficult to survive and thrive as an artist.
-The criteria of my choices is very simple. I want to ensure quality; quality of work, quality of my collaborators and quality of roles offered, it takes all three components to accept the part and then work on it. At this point after creating such a body of my own work I feel like I’m in a position where I can definitely say no to projects that don’t fit all three levels of quality. Another measurement that I pay attention to is when I’m invited to tour what I can learn, artistically, culturally, going into a different country and meeting artists and audiences from different parts of the world. I think that touring has expanded my horizons about the world and acting because you see different styles of interaction and different tastes when you travel and engage at international festivals. It made me more responsive, interactive and flexible in performing for different kinds of audiences.
-I don’t know if such a thing really exists (private versus public). I definitely need my private time to take care of myself which then fuels my creative work. It gives me energy, clarity and access to imagination and inspiration. By that I mean I like to run, walk, cycle, meditate and do yoga and I feel like this is both extremely useful for my own private life as well as my professional life. I usually spend time with friends who are also in the arts or PR and media so it all works well together. The balance for me means that what I get to do fuels my private and artistic spheres. I do have to say that every year I visit my family in Slovenia once or twice, they’re my treasure! :)
-Currently, I am producing an inaugural Science in Theater Festival in New York- pairing playwrights with scientists and making completely new dramas around scientific subjects and conundrums. I am crazy about technology; AI, innovation and neuroscience so this is really exciting for me. We’re also organizing projects with quite prominent people in the field so I cannot wait. We will do a live stream so keep your eyes open, the tickets will go live here https://scienceintheatre.com/ We’re also developing a brother show to the Female Role Model Project-Men’s Circle and I have been live-streaming my one woman show Wild Child in the City during coronavirus pandemic. I hope we can make some kind of exchange or collaboration with Egypt too!