Host Pier Carlo Talenti interviews artists who are shaking up the status quo to learn how they are reinventing their fields and building a new landscape for the arts.
christopher oscar peña
christopher oscar peña is an accomplished playwright with a resume that includes productions, commissions and residencies at some of the country’s most forward-thinking theatrical institutions. Among his most recent productions are the world premieres of his plays “a cautionary tail” at the Flea Theater in New York and “The Strangers” at the Clarence Brown Theatre in Knoxville, TN. chris is also amassing impressive credits as a TV writer, having written for the Emmy-nominated first season of “Jane the Virgin” on the CW and HBO’s highly lauded “Insecure” as well as the Starz series “Sweetbitter.” He is currently on the writing staff for “Promised Land,” a new series that will air this season on ABC.Early in the pandemic, chris was approached by director James Darragh to join him and composer Ellen Reid, who won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for her opera “p r i s m,” on a new project: a brand-new operatic work to be created specifically for and presented in the digital space. Never an opera aficionado, chris nonetheless jumped at the novel opportunity, and with the addition of “p r i s m” librettist Roxie Perkins, the creators hired a team of writers and composers and then filmed and recorded “Desert In.” All eight episodes are available for viewing on the streaming platform, OperaBox.tv. “Desert In” was described by The Wall Street Journal as “lush and expansive … a highly original marriage of opera and series television,” and The New York Observer wrote that “this stylish film-opera hybrid … is a sun-drenched melodrama.”In this interview with Pier Carlo Talenti, chris describes how his enduring passion for breaking form and pushing artistic envelopes has allowed him to craft an eclectic career that amplifies his voice and core beliefs. https://www.operabox.tv/desert-in
Frank Horvat is a celebrated Toronto-based composer and pianist who for decades has written and performed music across genres, from contemporary classical to musical theater and electronica. In 2017 he was the inaugural recipient of the Kathleen McMorrow Music Award which recognizes outstanding work by Ontario composers.Frank is devoted to using his creative platform to support and bring awareness to causes about which he is passionate: the environment, human rights and mental health. Examples of his artivism include his album “For Those Who Died Trying” that memorializes the lives of murdered environmental activists and the “Piano Therapy” concert, a performance he developed and continues to tour in order to share his own mental health journey and to end the stigma around mental illness, particularly in the world of classical music. His upcoming projects include “Fractures,” a song cycle of 13 pieces commissioned by acclaimed soprano Meredith Hall on the subject of the environmental impact of fracking, and a brand-new commission from pianist Kara Huber, a suite of solo piano pieces about the hiking paths in and around the beautiful mountain town of Banff, Alberta. In fact, shortly after this interview was completed, Frank traveled to Banff for a month-long residency during which he hiked the area’s most spectacular trails and started composing pieces inspired by his mountain peregrinations. In this interview with Pier Carlo Talenti, Frank describes why and how he went about creating “Music for Self-Isolation,” his response to the pandemic lockdown that threatened the careers of so many of his musician colleagues. “Music for Self-Isolation” became an international phenomenon, has since been recorded as an album and is the focus of a documentary film. He also explains why being candid about his own mental illness — to himself, his loved ones and his audience — allowed his creativity to flourish in ways he couldn’t have foreseen.https://frankhorvat.com/
Martine Kei Green-Rogers
Martine Kei Green-Rogers is an author, educator and dramaturg with decades of experience, having worked as production and new-play dramaturg at theaters all over the country, from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to Houston’s Classical Theatre Company and Chicago’s Court Theatre. This past summer she took a leave from her position as associate professor in the Department of Theatre Arts at the State University of New York-New Paltz to become the interim dean of the Division of Liberal Arts (DLA) at UNCSA.In this interview with Pier Carlo Talenti, Martine explains how the key to ensuring a healthy future for the American theater is to cultivate questioning and adventurous minds in artists and audience alike, essentially encouraging all of us to approach art with a dramaturg’s curiosity.https://www.martinekeigreenrogers.com/https://whoslouis.com/https://www.signaturetheatre.org/About/Playwrights---Residencies/Branden-Jacobs-Jenkins.aspxhttps://www.jamesijames.com/
Dancer/choreographer Rulan Tangen was thriving in an international career as a performer and dancer when in 2004 she survived a bout with Stage 4 cancer. Emerging from the harrowing experience, she shifted her goals and committed herself to getting a brand-new company, Dancing Earth Creations, off the ground, and 17 years later she remains its founding artistic director.
Dancing Earth is a mixed-heritage company that creates contemporary dance deeply rooted and researched in the communities in which it works. Through its workshops and dances, Dancing Earth explores and links themes of ecological and social health and wellness, particularly in Indigenous communities. Dancing Earth has led workshops in many Native reservations, and to date the company has included artists from 28 First Nations as co-creators.
In this interview with Pier Carlo Talenti, Rulan describes how she and her company navigated the devastating effects of the pandemic shutdown. Although their full year of touring was canceled in an instant, Rulan and her collaborators learned to become even more limber than they’d been before, finding evermore inventive ways to engage with their audiences and community partners.
Stephen McKinley Henderson
Stephen McKinley Henderson has a resume that most actors in his generation would — and probably do — envy. Trained first at Juilliard and then at UNCSA, he has been working steadily onstage for more than four decades, performing in classical and contemporary plays in theaters around the country.
In 1996 he originated the role of Turnbo in August Wilson’s “Jitney” in Pittsburgh and then went on to play the part many more times around the country, including in a hugely successful Off-Broadway run that netted him a Drama Desk Award. He eventually played the part at the National Theatre in London in 2001 in a production that won “Jitney” the Olivier Award for Best Play. Since then, he has appeared on Broadway several more times, including in two August Wilson plays, “King Hedley II” and “Fences,” earning a Tony nomination for best supporting actor in the latter.
In recent years Stephen has also amassed an impressive film resume. When Denzel Washington directed “Fences” for the screen, he asked his Broadway castmate Stephen to reprise his role in the film adaptation. Between 2016 and 2017 alone, Stephen was featured in three films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: “Fences,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “Lady Bird.” Later this year he will appear in one of the most anticipated films of recent years, Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of “Dune,” and he recently wrapped filming in horror auteur Ari Aster’s latest film, “Disappointment Blvd,” starring Joaquin Phoenix.
In this interview with Pier Carlo Talenti, Stephen reveals how as a young man a terrifying period of literal and metaphoric paralysis helped make him the artist he is today, a revolutionary optimist that renowned directors and playwrights alike know they can trust explicitly with their work.
Tara Rynders is a dancer, choreographer and video artist based in Denver, CO. She is also a full-time registered nurse with over 15 years of experience. She combined her passions for dance and for compassionate care by creating The Clinic, an organization that through immersive artistic experiences combats compassion fatigue and professional burnout among nurses and fosters stronger connections between nurses, patients and communities.
Among the projects Tara has developed through The Clinic are movement-and-art group workshops designed specifically for nurses experiencing burnout and “Resiliency Moments,” one-on-one virtual and intimate interactions between individual artists and healthcare workers in which art is made and grief and trauma begin to be healed.
Both the medical and artistic worlds have recognized Tara’s work. She received the highest level of nursing recognition in Colorado when in 2019 she was awarded the Nightingale Luminary Award, and she has received numerous arts grants, including a Blade of Grass Fellowship, to support her work melding the arts with science.
In this interview with Pier Carlo Talenti, Tara delves into how her experiences caring and being cared for in a hospital informed the creation of The Clinic and explains how more moments of back-and-forth empathy between artists and scientists could lead to substantial changes in the healthcare industry and beyond.
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