BWW Interviews: Natalie Lerner Talks CHRIS-MA-HANU-KWANZIKA
I talked to the multi-talented, dyed-in-wool Houstonian Natalie Lerner about her new venture, the eclectic and decoupage Mosaic Hub, as well as the company's upcoming production CHRIS-MA-HANU-KWANZIKA.
BWW: What is CHRIS-MA-HANU-KWANZIKA?
Natalie Lerner: CHRIS-MA-HANU-KWANZIKA is a variety show of varied traditions. With art and entertainment as our vehicle, we are bringing the present richness of the cultures, traditions, and holiday joy surrounding Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa under one roof. All performance segments feature the talent of a local Houstonian too.*
BWW: How have you managed to combine so many winter holiday traditions while staying true to each?
Natalie Lerner: By recognizing that part of what makes us special is our differences, we plan to let art reveal this and tell the story of each holiday. What is on stage that night will present aspects of the various holiday traditions and cultures.
BWW: How have you managed to combine "brass, vocals, a band, African percussion and dance, long form improvisation, fashion, jewelry, and culinary art" with focus? I imagine this sort of endeavor could be overwhelming.
Natalie Lerner: Some might call it overwhelming, but for us it is the excitement of what we do. Variety is our game and the product we sell. Our shows are currently one time a month, so it helps with the planning process, however, we are mastering the process at an astonishing rate. As word about us spreads, we look forward to being able to increase our show count to two times a month next season, and hopefully every Friday and Saturday the following season.
BWW: Why did you create The Mosaic Hub? What need do you see it filling in the Houston theatre scene?
Natalie Lerner: When you want to "make it big," most people think New York, Los Angeles, or perhaps Chicago. Why not Houston? Why should the great talent in this city feel they have to abandon their home? With so much professional, artistic talent residing right here in Houston, we asked ourselves, why not create a venue that regularly features this hodgepodge of creativity? The Mosaic Hub brings this beautiful mosaic of art and entertainment under one roof, while strengthening the community bond and opening up the social scene. It is a variety show of modern day, and our very own locals get the limelight. Long-term, we hope The Mosaic Hub helps put Houston on the map.
BWW: Why do you take the "hodgepodge" approach to art as you describe it?
Natalie Lerner: A great beef stew isn't a great beef stew without the carrots and the potatoes. Much like a great stew, we are able to create a unique production for our audiences that varies by the segment and also works well together. Such variety means you will never see the same show twice.
BWW: What do you mean by "professional arts community", for the community?
Natalie Lerner: We believe art is all around us and is something we all can relate to. No matter what our background is, art ties us together. With this in mind, The Mosaic Hub strives to nurture a place that enriches the Houston community via art. We present the talents of local artists that do what they do and do it well, so we can in turn provide a top-notch, quality product to the community. On top of that, every show, we donate a portion of proceeds to a local charity, and artists are invited to join us at any of our service projects. Our professionals team together to represent and strengthen our community.
BWW: A portion of the proceeds from this show will go to the Houston Food Bank, correct?
Natalie Lerner: Correct. We also encourage our audience for "Chris-ma-Hanu-Kwanzika" to bring canned goods for the Houston Food Bank, in the spirit of giving. We go out of our way to be "...for the community." Every show, we have given a portion of proceeds to a local charity we have partnered with. As a new entity, with two shows under our belt, we have been honored to partner with two charities thus far. The first was Elijah Rising, who aims to put an end to human trafficking in the Houston area, and secondly ArtBridge, who brings art to local homeless children.
BWW: How do you choose your programming?
Natalie Lerner: At the beginning of our season we held auditions for our upcoming themed shows. We continue to take audition submissions all the time as well as curate the shows ourselves. Using predetermined themes as our guide, we select acts that help us reflect that programming. For instance, our last show was MASQUERADE BALL. We presented a comedic magician, aerialist, juggler, fashion show and skit, violinist, and swampy blues band. A very exciting season is ahead, and we invite everyone to mark their calendars for our January show as we present Beta Theater's long form improvisation and the band Battle Between, among others.
BWW: Other than helping a great cause, why should Houstonites come out to see CHRIS-MA-HANU-KWANZIKA in a season full of Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa festivities?
Natalie Lerner: Nowhere else in Houston will you find an event that is a celebration of the art inspired by such holiday and cultural variety. Not only will our audience be presented with a platter of options in terms of live performance and early holiday shopping, but they may find a newfound appreciation for their fellow neighbor during this night of such varied traditions. Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa might never have fit so well together! [Laughs]
*On December 13, CHRIS-MA-HANU-KWANZIKA will feature:
Robert Berry (Magician/Emcee), Ronna Mansfield (Vocalist), Daniel Rosales (Vocalist), Lipan Urban (African Percussion/Dance), Houston Brass Quintet, Station Theater (Long Form Improv), Apple Scruffs (Band), Alexenia (Kitchen/Home Fashion), Captivations (Jewelry), and Zeapod Cakery (Vocalist/Culinary Artist).
To purchase tickets, please visit The Mosaic Hub website.