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BWW Feature: At Home With Natasha Castillo

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The woman responsible for SPOTLIGHT ON YOU Open Mic Night is in the light today.

BWW Feature: At Home With Natasha CastilloNatasha Castillo is like the Energizer Rabbit of cabaret - she is constantly moving and, in a way, she is constantly beating a drum - it is a drum that celebrates live music and the artists who make it. A respected singer with a beautiful voice, Natasha has, in recent years, been doing less performing of her own and made her main focus the act of giving a voice to others. SPOTLIGHT ON YOU is a regular open mic night that Ms. Castillo has been hosting at 53 Above Broadway but when the global health crisis hit New York City, she took the show online. Now Natasha emcee's the evening through a Zoom Room, and the virtual variety show has become one of the most well attended weekly entertainment meetings.

Last week the Manhattan Association of Cabaret (MAC) sent their members the ballot for new board members - two will be voted in from four candidates, and Ms. Castillo is one of them. I reached out to her to ask why a busy artist and producer would want to take on yet another role in the industry, and her answer wasn't much of a surprise: it's to serve the community that has, so, nourished her.

This interview was conducted digitally and is reproduced in its entirety.

Name: Natasha Castillo

First Cabaret Show (Title, Year, Club): "Anything But Ordinary" 2012, The Duplex

Most Recent Cabaret Show: "Natasha Castillo's Excellent 80's Adventure", Opened on 3/1/2020 at the Laurie Beechman Theatre (couldn't do more than 1 show due to Covid-19)

Website or Social Media Handles:

http://natashacastillo.com/

https://www.facebook.com/natasha.castillo.012

https://www.facebook.com/SpotlightOnYouOpenMic/

Natasha, thank you for joining us at Broadway World Cabaret to chat today - how's the campaign for MAC Board member going?

First, I want to thank you for asking and taking the time to interview me.

I've been a very active MAC member since 2012, participating with and supporting events and artists.

As far as the campaign is concerned, I put the information about me out there and I trust the MAC members to read through the ballots and make sound decisions. I do not believe in hard selling. I have years in my track record of contribution to the cabaret community, and I would like to do more.

Your history in the cabaret industry has been quite varied, performer, producer, emcee, photographer, videographer - is there an area of the industry you haven't tried out yet, but would like to?

I would love to be part of the MAC Board and offer my ideas, skills, and officially contribute.

When New York City went into quarantine, you took your show SPOTLIGHT ON YOU online; as a videographer, was it easy for you to learn how to present the open mic night in a virtual format?

Fortunately, I have expertise with virtual platforms and IT as the result of my day job in the industry of virtual/crypto currency. I was more concerned about the participants, so I spent a considerable amount of time walking them through the process to familiarize them with the new format.

BWW Feature: At Home With Natasha Castillo

All of the work that you do is so reliant on personal interaction - what were your personal coping mechanisms that helped you stay focused and optimistic during the lockdown?

I have several outlets... I will share a few of them in no order of importance. Aside from my job which requires focus, I focus on my passions in helping others in need, singing and practicing my guitar, taking long walks in Central Park, planning delicious meals for myself, organizing/cleaning my apartment, Calling and talking to friends/family...

What was the impetus for the transition from nightclub singer to producer and host of an open mic night?

BWW Feature: At Home With Natasha CastilloI discovered and fell in love with cabaret as the result of taking "Get Your Act Together", a class taught by Lennie Watts and Steven Ray Watkins at the Singers Forum.

There was a monthly open mic at the Singers Forum created and hosted by the late John Koprowski, the former MAC treasurer. I was a regular at the open mic. Out of the blue one day, he asked me to co-host the event with him because he said he liked the energy I brought on stage.

When the Singers Forum went defunct, we wanted to continue the open mic because there were many regulars who missed the musical outlet, including ourselves. We wanted to provide a space for performers where they can feel safe and share their passions for music. That is how Spotlight on YOU came about. Sadly, John passed away before he was able to be part of Spotlight.

The love and support you show for the performers at Spotlight on you are so visible, so palpable - it's a quality you display for the entire community. Is that why you are running for the MAC board?

BWW Feature: At Home With Natasha CastilloI love live music, cabaret, and the community. I'm very fortunate to have found and studied with Lennie Watts all these years. He is a role model for me. I personally relate to cabaret performers, their passions, needs and frustrations.

Being able to support artists to help them express their passion in music, making a difference, motivates me and brings me joy.

BWW Feature: At Home With Natasha Castillo

What kind of growth do you think the industry could benefit from, given the times in which we live?

Given the times in which we live, I believe that there is a need to for us to put efforts into marketing and educating the public about cabaret. Most people outside the immediate community either don't know or have a misconception of what cabaret is about. I have some thoughts and ideas and I can probably go on and on but that's another conversation all together.

Natasha, tell me about your life as a vegan - What led you to your dietary lifestyle?

My vegan diet started as the result of the passing of my grandmother. It is an Asian custom to forgo killing of any type in the event of a passing. During the "fast", I realized that my body loved the vegan diet and felt better than ever. The rest is history.

Given your social media postings, you are quite the cook. What's your favorite thing to make and would you ever consider doing online cooking lessons?

BWW Feature: At Home With Natasha CastilloMy favorite thing to make is Malaysian vegetable curry. I love making a feast and feeding friends and family. I think they love my food because they always took doggie bags with them afterward.

I cook by instinct and cook based on what I see in my fridge. I will really have to "think" about how much of every spice I use if I am to do a cooking lesson.

Natasha, what is the secret to your ever-present optimism?

As the result of several near-death experiences and losing people I love to death, I realized how precious life is. I started a ritual of writing down everything in my life that I am grateful for each day because I don't ever want to take anything for granted. A lot of people don't realize how much that is good that we take for granted... such as the air we breathe and water.

I've lived by the law of attraction instinctively before I ever knew that there was a name for it. My belief is that there are no experiences that are "bad" so long as you have learned something from it.

Photos provided by Natasha Castillo.

See SPOTLIGHT ON YOU Open Mic Night HERE

BWW Feature: At Home With Natasha Castillo


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